Los Angeles-In a first step towards establishing fair and consistent guidelines and procedures that will increase competition and global participation in domain-name registration services, the non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) today is releasing for public comment a draft proposal for the accreditation of Internet domain-name registrars. The draft includes criteria for selecting the five registrars who will test the system for a two-month period beginning at the end of April.
The proposed accreditation guidelines, comprising nearly 30 pages of detailed analysis and proposed standards, will be published on ICANN's Web site (www.icann.org) today for public comment and suggestions. The final version of the guidelines will provide requirements for accreditation of domain-name registrars in the .com, .org and .net top-level domains (TLDs). Following public comment submitted in response to today's posting, and comment and discussion at an open meeting in Singapore on March 3, 1999, ICANN's initial board will consider adoption of the proposed guidelines or a revised version.
"We are pleased to have the opportunity to work with the Internet community to create a stable but competitive market for domain-name registration services in these three important domains," commented Esther Dyson, interim chairman of the ICANN board. "One of the major reasons for the creation of ICANN was to foster fair and open ground rules in the domain-name system, and we are now approaching a major milestone in achieving that goal. We aim to design a system that promotes the stability of the Internet and is capable of evolving in the future."
The immediate development and adoption of accreditation guidelines is necessary to implement an agreement by Network Solutions Inc. (NSI) to develop a system that allows multiple registrars to register names in the .com, .net, and .org TLDs in competition with NSI. Since 1993, NSI has been the sole provider of direct domain-name registration services in these TLDs as part of a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Government. In the interests of opening the process to robust competition, a recent amendment to the cooperative agreement paved the way for other companies to register unique second-level domain names on behalf of their customers in the NSI-maintained TLD database (the "registry").
NSI initially will open the database to five registrars as part of a test phase in which the shared registration system will be launched, evaluated and improved. Rather than participating in the test as one of the five registrars, NSI will continue its existing registrar operations during the test phase. After completion of the test, NSI will be required to provide equal access to registry services through the shared registration system to all accredited registrars (including itself) at prices to be agreed upon by the U.S. Government and NSI under the terms of the cooperative agreement. The price charged by NSI for registry services will be based on NSI's costs, plus a reasonable return on its investment.
Key elements of the proposed guidelines on which ICANN is soliciting comments include minimum technical, operational and financial criteria for entering the registration business; requirements for portability of domain names among registration companies; protections against fraud and infringement of intellectual property rights; data security, privacy, and protection; and special technical requirements to protect the stability and operational integrity of the Internet. ICANN is seeking public comment on these proposed criteria, as well as on a proposed fee structure based on an initial accreditation fee and an ongoing charges on regisration volume.
Because testbed participants will be required to provide enhanced technical and engineering support to interface with NSI during the testing phase, the proposal specifies additional criteria for selection of the five testbed registrars. The early accreditation of these registrars for the test period is not intended or expected to give them any competitive advantage. Indeed, they will be required to devote significant time, expertise, and resources to ensure the success of the testing process, and they must be prepared to publish operational information as part of the test evaluation.
"Much of the material in these proposed guidelines reflects planning and analysis done by others in recent years," said Michael Roberts, ICANN interim CEO and head of the proposal drafting effort. "We've pulled that thinking together, updated it to reflect the agreement between ICANN and the government, and tailored it to the needs of NSI's agreement with the U.S. Government for the introduction of competition in the .com, .org and .net domains. ICANN thanks all those who contributed."
As with any other change in Internet management, the introduction of the guidelines will be controversial. "We recognize that implementing changes in the domain-name system will be a contentious issue," said Interim Chairman Dyson. "The point is to make the transition fair, and the results fair. As long as everyone knows the rules and can play on the same terms, we will have achieved that. As the initial board considers comments on the guidelines, we will work hard with the Internet community to develop guidelines that strike everyone as reasonable, sound, and transparent."
Along with the draft guidelines, ICANN also is posting several other policy drafts and documents on which it is seeking public comment-including a draft conflict of interest policy, a draft reconsideration policy, and applications received from entities seeking recognition as ICANN Supporting Organizations.
About ICANN: The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a new, private, non-profit, international corporation formed by the global Internet community to assume responsibility for managing Internet technical coordinating functions including domain-name system (DNS) management, IP address block allocation, the coordination of the assignment of technical protocol parameters, and root server system management, now performed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. Government.
ICANN was created by the global Internet community in response to "Management of Internet Names and Addresses," a U.S. Government statement of policy issued in June 1998, that invited the global Internet community to form a new, private sector organization to undertake management of Internet domain-name system functions. In November 1998, ICANN entered into an agreement with the U.S. Government to design and develop the methods and procedures that should be in place to transition DNS management responsibility to the private sector from the government. It is expected that this transition will be completed by September 2000.
ICANN's initial board is led by interim chairman Esther Dyson, and has members from six nations. This initial board, with assistance from staff and several committees, is working to pave the way for a smooth and stable transition to private sector management of technical management functions. The day-to-day management of ICANN is led by its interim President and CEO, Mike Roberts. The initial board members will be succeeded by board members elected by four different constituency groups, collectively representing a broad range of the Internet's technical and user communities around the globe.
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Alexander Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
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