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February 18, 1999


By CBR Staff Writer

By Nick Patience

The US Department of Commerce will hold a public meeting next month in Washington DC to try and expand usage of the .us two- letter country-code domain, which until now has largely been the preserve of federal and local government institutions. With space in the popular generic top-level domains – .com, .net and .org – getting increasingly scarce and the timetable for introducing new generic TLDs as lax as ever, the US government sees an opportunity to mimic the rest of the world and define domains first by country, then by function. This could enable more individuals and companies to get a meaningful name and, hopes the DOC, avoid at least some of the potential conflicts between trademark and domain name holders cropping up in the .com domain name space at the moment. For example, companies in the UK are designated the extension and in Australia the suffix. Similarly, they could be registered in the domain. Holding up such a development is the lack of well-funded administration of the .us registry. It is currently run by staff at the Information Sciences Institute (ISI) at the University of Southern California, which houses the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), whose work is being subsumed into the private- sector run Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Funding for the ISI’s work has been provided by Network Solutions Inc ever since it signed its original cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation back in 1993. It amounted to about $1m a year, with the late director of the IANA, Jon Postel, and the ISI staff working as sub-contractors to NSI, in effect. The latest contract expired on September 30, 1998 and it is not clear who has been footing the bill since then. NSI tells us that it has exchanged various terms and conditions with ISI, but nothing has been signed yet and no money has been paid by NSI, at least, since September. As with all this domain name system politicking, this move by the DOC is way behind schedule and highly controversial. In August, the DOC opened a 30-day comment period about what do with .us. The US Postal Service (USPS) waded in with its proposal to take over the running of .us in early October, after the comment period had been extended. However, Postel, who died in mid-October 1998, had met with USPS officials in the spring of 1998 and they had told him of their proposal, which among other things suggested giving every US physical address an internet equivalent. A very messy episode ensued through the summer, with the USPS trying to feed stories to the press about its intentions – with varying degree of success. Other proposals were put to the DOC, including one from the Domain Name Rights Coalition (DNRC) which advocated opening the registration for the name in the .us space to competition. All sides of the argument should be heard in Washington at the meeting, which is on March 9 at the DOC. Details are at

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