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February 1, 1998

US ISSUES PLAN TO PRIVATIZE INTERNET DOMAIN NAME SYSTEM

By CBR Staff Writer

The long-awaited government green paper proposing changes to the management of the internet domain names is finally here. There are no major surprises as much if its content has been learned in advance. President Clinton’s senior advisor on internet issues, Ira Magaziner, together with Becky Burr, the senior internet policy advisor at the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA) have produced the 15-page discussion document recommending sweeping changes, largely aimed at ending US government involvement in the management of the domain name system (DNS). The duration of the public comment period has not been defined, but we understand it to be between four and six weeks. The government says it will define the period when the paper is published in the Federal Register at an unspecified date in the near future. The main proposals are as follows (see Barbed Wire section for analysis). The function of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which at present decides what new top-level domain names (the ones following the last dot in a URL) go into the internet’s root server network, will be passed to a not-for-profit corporation, complete with a CEO and board of directors. Network Solutions Inc’s (NSI) federal cooperative agreement, which expires March 31, will be extended through September 30 to help the transition to the new, private sector based system. The US government will provide policy oversight during the transition, but will be definitely out of the loop on or before September 30 2000. A maximum of five new top-level domain names (TLDs) will be added before September 30 with each TLD having its own registry and each registry managing just one TLD. NSI must give up control of the A root server and the root server system to the not-for-profit organization when instructed to do so by the government. During the transition period (i.e. up to September 30) NSI must split its registrar and registry businesses. It will have to develop or license a database application for a shared registry for the .com, .net, and .org TLDs and the registration of those names will be thrown open to competition. Meanwhile, NSI operating as registrar, must act in a non-discriminatory way to new registrars wanting to register users in those three names. The operation of .edu will be given over to another, as yet unspecified not-for-profit entity. As of April 1 this year, NSI will no longer have to pass 30% of the registration fees it collects to the internet infrastructure fund, which will be frozen. There will be no overriding trademark dispute resolution body. Each registry must provide a non-litigious mechanism for resolving disputes based on minimum criteria set down in the paper.

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