August 27, 2012    


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Domain Groups Ready to Fight in Vancouver Over ICANN's Controversial .Com Agreement with Verisign

By Ron Jackson
Editor/Publisher

 

(Editor's Note: The article below, written Nov. 22, alludes to lawsuits brewing over this issue. On Nov. 28, the first two lawsuits aimed at stopping the ICANN/Verisign agreement were officially filed, the first by the World Association of Domain Name Developers and the second by the Coalition for ICANN Transparency).

 

It looks like sparks will be flying at the upcoming ICANN meeting November 30-December 4 in Vancouver, Canada. A number of individuals, organizations and domain industry companies are planning to attend to voice their opposition to the ICANN-Verisign .com agreement announced Oct. 24. The agreement (if signed by ICANN after their public comment period ends Dec. 4) will end all pending litigation between ICANN and Verisign, but opponents of the deal argue that the settlement would come at an unacceptable cost to both consumers and companies operating in this industry. 

It appears almost certain that while the agreement would end the legal wrangling between ICANN and Verisign, if implemented it would trigger new lawsuits against ICANN by third parties that would bear the financial brunt of the deal with Verisign. 

The Washington D.C. based Coalition For ICANN Transparency (CFIT) is one of several groups that have sprung up in an effort to stop ICANN from finalizing the agreement. On their web site at www.CFIT.info, the organization estimates the ICANN-Verisign agreement would cost consumers an extra $1.5 billion over the next 7 years (the deal allows Versign to raise base .com prices 7% annually). CFIT also argues that the agreement essentially gives Verisign permanent control of the .com registry, eliminating competition and reducing government oversight. 

Nearly all of the opponents are calling for this agreement to be set aside and the .com contract that is currently in place be allowed to run its course to November 2007 when it expires. At that time, they want the .com contract opened up to competing bidders so that everyone has a fair shot at obtaining this valuable business. They also argue that such open competition will almost guarantee lower prices for domain registrants rather than the stiff increases allowed in the new agreement. 

CFIT spokesman John Berard told us “registrars Tucows and Afilias are already on record that they would bid $2 and $4 respectively as the base cost for .com registrations, rather than the $6 Verisign currently charges and the $9 they will eventually be charging if this agreement is enacted.” 

Berard, who believes ICANN gave Verisign a “sweetheart deal” to escape litigation, is urging everyone who can to show up in Vancouver to voice their opposition. This can be done during public portions of the ICANN board meeting Dec. 3 and 4. Many commercial interests will be lodging their protests during cross-constituency sessions that will be held from 1-3pm Nov. 29 (the day before the meeting officially opens). 

If you can’t be there in person, you can email your comments directly to ICANN at this address: settlement-comments@icann.org . You can also visit the ICANN site to see what others have been saying about the agreement. That thread begins with a comment from George Kirikos here and as of this writing (Nov. 22) ends with a post from Moniker.com CEO Monte Cahn here. Both of those posts hit on the key points that have turned this into a hot button issue in the domain community. 

Another aspect of the proposed agreement that has drawn fire is a provision that could allow Verisign to revive their unpopular SiteFinder program (which allowed them to profit by redirecting invalid address requests to a web page controlled by VeriSign. The redirection also interfered with programs that test the validity of domains since an error was no longer returned for invalid .com or .net. domains.) Verisign shut that program down in 2003 under threat of sanctions from ICANN and lawsuits from other affected parties. 

With this subject on the agenda, there is a lot at stake for domain owners in Vancouver. If you want to weigh in on the subject, don’t delay. Your window of opportunity closes Dec. 4.

 

 

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