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July 20, 2001
Mr. Stuart Lynn
RE: Response to Cochetti letter dated July 16, 2001
Dear Mr. Lynn,
In his July 16th letter, Mr Cochetti referred to rampant unauthorized domain name transfers from the Verisign Registrar. In his letter he mentioned a survey that Verisign conducted which he claims illustrated that a significant number of domain registrants whose domain names were transferred out of Verisign to other competing registrars were in fact unauthorized by the domain registrant. His evidence is that roughly 24% of those surveyed claimed they did not ever request to be transferred, and that 33% did not even know they had been transferred.
These numbers sure sound ominous on their face. However, they only appear that way because the survey did not take into account many realities that have been involved in the domain registration industry since prior to the introduction of competitive registrars in 1999.
ISPs/IPPs (Internet Service Providers and Internet Presence Providers) have for many years handled the domain registration service on behalf of their customers, and did so with their customers' consent. In fact, the management of the domain registration, renewal, and updates, were considered a part of the complete customer service that ISPs and IPPs had long offered. Many times the customer was not even aware of who Network Solutions was, and if they had heard of them, had no idea what their role was. They expected that their ISP/IPP was responsible for that, and entrusted the management of their domain registration to them.
Prior to the introduction
of competitive registrars, Network Solutions' tremendous growth in domain
registrations was probably more
When companies such as Tucows and BulkRegister.com began offering competitive domain name registration, and specifically catered to the needs and concerns of the ISP/IPP community, many thousands of them flocked to sign up to process domain registrations and renewals (aka transfers) through their wholesale offerings. Most of them had numerous domains at Network Solutions registered to themselves and their customers. While many did mass transfers of all their domains, others did them over time, or as they would come close to renewal. The end users, or registrants, expected their ISP/IPPs to make these decisions for them, and if they were asked to approve an email notice they received, they simply did it. Again, this was a part of the trust they put into their ISP/IPP.
As ISP/IPPs it was our responsibility to provide the best service to our customers, and that included managing their domain name service for them, and making decisions with regard to suppliers. Suppliers are not only those companies who provide the dedicated connectivity that we host their sites on, but also their domain name registrations. Just as we would not seek a customer's permission to move our servers off of a connection from one Telco to another who can provide better service to us, we would not ask our customers to learn and understand all the intricacies of the domain registration business and all the companies and names involved simply because we were switching wholesale providers. Those decisions are ones they expect us to make, and prefer to be as distant from them as possible.
It is our contention that
the survey Verisign conducted was flawed at its most basic levels by
making assumptions that domain registrants
As ISP/IPPs dealing with customers who want and expect better domain name registration service, we have had to deal with the existing change in policy at Verisign that requires an additional acknowledgement to Verisign of the registrant's intent to transfer or the transfer is blocked. We are in the trenches seeing the real world implementation of this policy, and we can tell you first hand that it is not working the way Verisign is claiming it is. Many times these verification messages are sent out very late, if at all, and the default blocking policy goes into effect before the registrant has anything resembling a reasonable chance to respond. Many times they don't even understand the message, so their response is delayed further while they contact their ISP/IPP asking what to do. If these messages were always sent out the first day the registrar received the automated notice of the outgoing transfer request, this might not be such a big issue. However, Verisign's systems regularly fail to do that.
The delays caused by this policy are great. The transfer request has to be resubmitted, after the initial one has timed out at the registry, and the process starts again. Hopefully, Verisign sends the notice out with more expediency the second time around. However, many domain registrants are experiencing such long delays in finally getting a domain transfer processed because of this policy, that their domain names pass the renewal date, and then Verisign denies the transfer claiming they are then owed the renewal fee of $35.00USD before they will release the domain for a transfer.
We are seeing this in so many cases on a weekly basis, that we can only believe that this system was intentionally put in place to hamper the transfer process and thus stem the tide of domain registrations,and the related revenue, that has been flooding out of the Verisign Registrar. And when Verisign was called on it by providers such as Tucows, Verisign created this excuse to justify their policy, and to justify an even more extreme suggested policy that would effectively force transfers to have a much steeper expense in both monetary cost as well as time and convenience.
These actions are anti-competitive in the extreme. We find Verisign's accusations which claim actions by ISP/IPPs such as ourselves constitute "domain slamming" to be offensive accusations, which deliberately leave out the full and true facts of the cases in order to justify their anti-competitive positions and stance, and protect their dominant position which they hold only because of their prior monopolistic state.
Cochetti states in this letter that "most customers register with the VeriSign Registrar because of its uniquely strong commitment to customer service and the notion of trust on the Internet." However, the truth of the matter is that the most customers do not even know who Verisign is, or exactly what their role is in the market, or the difference between Verisign's registrar and registry services. It also ignores the fact that most of the domain name registrants in their service were funneled to them via ISP/IPPs who marketed the concept of having a domain name and internet presence to these registrants. The business Verisign got from those transactions was incidental, and mostly a result of there being no competitive market or alternatives at the time.
As ISP/IPPs we are all deeply involved and concerned in matters of domain policy, and see first hand the effects of those policies on both our own businesses and the end user/registrants. We are deeply concerned with any movement by Verisign to push ICANN into developing excessively prohibitive policies that are meant more to bolster the position of Verisign rather than to meet ICANN's obligation under itsMemorandum of Understanding with the US Government Department of Commerce to foster a competitive environment in the domain name industry.
If Verisign was truly concerned about making sure that domain registrants are given the opportunity to block unwanted transfers from them, they would instead adopt a policy similar to the one that Tucows has adopted for outgoing transfers. The administrative contact for the domain is given notice that a transfer request has been received, and who the receiving registrar is. They are then given the opportunity to block the transfer, or to explicitly approve the transfer. The transfer is approved if it is not blocked by the registrant. Explicitly approving the transfer is not required, but if they do the transfer is ACK'd automatically, which speeds up the process for the registrant.
The Tucows policy is an example of one that protects the registrant from unauthorized "slamming" but which doesn't create a prohibitively complicated system that is geared to keeping the customer who has already decided to leave, or whom has delegated that decision to their ISP/IPP.
We urge ICANN to reject any suggestion by Verisign that ICANN enforce prohibitive policies on domain transfers, and to use the force of its contracts to mandate that Verisign not engage in these types of anti-competitive actions.
William X Walsh <email@example.com>
Charles T. Smith, Jr <Charles.Smith@ispc.org>
Matthew Gallant <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Brent Sims, Owner
Jim Larrabee <email@example.com>
Nicholas B. Swift < firstname.lastname@example.org>
Marc Schneiders <Marc@Schneiders.ORG>
William Himmelstoss <email@example.com>
Bill Gerrard <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Joseph Malinowski <email@example.com>
Hugh Buchanan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Jeremy Luebke <email@example.com>
Jim Jones, Jr. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ryan Brown <email@example.com>
Drew Linsalata (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Eric Longman <email@example.com>
Hugh P Blair <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Andy Paluch <email@example.com>
Séan Flynn <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sheldon Koehler, Owner/Partner
Hossein Farmani <email@example.com>
Doug Renn <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Eric Paynter <email@example.com>
Peter I. Mignone <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Charles T. Smith, Jr. <email@example.com>
Genie Livingstone <firstname.lastname@example.org>
David Moore < email@example.com>
Phillip Beazley < firstname.lastname@example.org>
David Dorey <email@example.com>
Jack Broughton, <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Barbara Brasfield < email@example.com>
Allen Jenkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Darryl Lynch <email@example.com>
Elise L. Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>
David Harris <email@example.com>
Richard Pedersen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
John Blakney <email@example.com>
Kai Schätzl <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Beric Farmer <email@example.com>
William S. Lovell, PhD
Tim Jung <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Kirk L. Kroeker (kirk@NimbleDomain.com)
Karl E. Peters
Bruce M James bmj@keyName.net
Bryce Weathersby, Owner
Mike Mattox <email@example.com>
Nico Morrison <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Jeff Willis (email@example.com)
Kristopher Gilbert (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Leah Gallegos <email@example.com>
A Michael Salim
J Scott Schiller
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