Network Solutions Inc (NSI) and the US Department of Commerce have inked a one week extension to the agreement to maintain the stability of the DNS, after the five-and-a-half year-old agreement to run the InterNic domain name system registry expired at midnight last night. The extension until October 7 will give the two sides time to conclude their negotiations about how to hand over control to the new corporation, which one NSI insider close to the talks described as very intense. Any agreement will include some sort of timetable for NSI to open competition in the registry market, or as NSI put it in a statement, how other registrars will eventually be allowed to register names in network Solutions’ .com registry. NSI holds the federal contract for the .com, .net, .org and .edu registries, but who actually now ‘owns’ the registries is a highly contentious issue. There are also technical issues to be resolved, such as handing over control of the main root server that NSI currently controls, and how to run the system. We understand that there are still significant differences between the two sides on both timing and technical issues. Sources at NSI say the maintenance of the root server is a big responsibility and the company, which is publicly traded, could certainly do without the liability. There is still a tremendous amount of education needed, on the government’s part according to the source as it’s not just a big switch on the wall and we just flip it. Maybe some sort of deal where NSI physically maintains the server, but the legal responsibility for it passes to the government, could be arranged although that would probably leave the government exposed to lawsuits. In July 1997 a human error led to a major outage on the internet as hundreds of thousands of domain names were wiped off the internet’s address book for a few hours, and web sites could not be accessed and email could not be delivered (07/18/97). That happened during the company’s quiet period before its initial public offering, but such an outage now could have an obvious negative effect on NSI’s stock. NSI says it will definitely submit comments to the proposal that is to be presented to the US government this morning by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) (see separate story), but it does not look as if NSI will be producing its own draft plan. NSI closed yesterday up $1.625, or 4.1% at $41.625, on an otherwise bad day for most technology stocks.