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September 24, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

With just five days to go until the deadline set by the US government for submissions for plans to run the domain name system (DNS), it appears we are not done with the drafts yet. The draft plan that came out of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and Network Solutions Inc (NSI) last week was effectively the fourth draft of the IANA plan – but the first to which NSI contributed. Then last weekend, a group in Boston produced revisions to it (09/23/98).

We understand that we can expect a fifth draft and sources say Ira Magaziner, the government’s point person on the matter has told IANA and NSI to produce another document. Quite what this means for the supposed September 30 deadline is anybody’s guess, but we can be sure the government will continue funding the DNS beyond this date if nothing has been resolved.

Another problem is apparently about to be introduced by the European Union. We have seen a draft copy of a document drawn up following a meeting at the end of last week held by an unnamed EU panel believed to be headed by Christopher Wilkinson, an advisor at the European Commission on internet and telecommunications issues within Directorate General XXIII.

The document outlines four areas of concern the EU has about the IANA-NSI draft that it wants resolved before it can endorse the proposal. Firstly, it feels there must be balanced international representation on the board. The IANA-NSI draft calls for no more than half of the board form any one geographic region; the EU calls for no more than one third.

Secondly, the EU doesn’t much like article IV of the IANA-NSI draft, which deals with the general powers of the entity. The EU doesn’t like the way the document pre-judges the extent to which the new corporation will be able to act in a pro-competitive manner in the DNS market. We think, but cannot be sure, that that is a reference to NSI and IANA being mentioned in article four, where the draft states that the entity must abide with any agreement the two have previously signed with the government.

Thirdly, the EU berates IANA-NSI for only giving a few days for a comment period, which has expired already, unless a few means a week. And lastly, the EU complains about the provision that no member of the board can be a government official. The EU points out that the third draft of August 24 allowed them if they had particular scientific or technical skills, but not in the fourth draft. The EU says this will exclude a significant part of the internet expertise in many countries from participating in the board, and should be revised. That complaint would no doubt be echoed by Asian countries, where a lot of the internet skill base is in the public sector.

We have also seen notes from one of the big two European telcos that it is not at all happy with just IANA and NSI being involved in the talks, so if Magaziner has asked them, and just them to sit down again, that issue, which we expect would be echoed through most of the major European players, is not going to go away. Other internet veterans we have spoken to have dismissed this as the EU wanting to create the entity in the image if itself and being overly bureaucratic. But we think the US government will take on board what the EU says, as it did so after the green paper was published.

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