RealTime IT News

Domain Name Controversy Explodes

[Sydney, AUSTRALIA] Internet industry representatives were up in arms following an announcement that Melbourne IT would provide 80 percent of the funding for regulatory body .au Domain Administration (auDA). Melbourne IT has a monopoly on .com.au domain name registration in Australia, but chief executive Professor Peter Gerrand said the funding would not mean it would have an unfair advantage over potential competitors.

In return for the funding contribution, Melbourne IT has been recognized as the sole provider of .com.au domain names until the auDA committee completes its regulatory framework for the introduction of competition in the com.au domain sector.

Gerrand refused to comment on claims from competitors, such as Net Registry that auDA is Melbourne IT's "kicking dog". He did, however, refute claims that the funding provided would affect auDA 's development of its competition model. "No, not at all," he said. "AuDA developed a timetable following advice from the Federal Government and the ACCC in terms of a proper process for public consultation. They need funding to support them and they've asked each of the six monopoly registrars [such as connect.com.au, which registers net.au domain names, and iiNet, which registers asn.au] to contribute in proportion to the current market share. As we have about 80 percent of the market, we've agreed to pay 80 percent of the costs."

He also denied that the funding was the reason behind the delayed implementation of competition in the industry. "They've recognized that to do it properly more time needs to be dedicated to industry consultation. The industry is very young and its been a learning process. Some members have no experience in proper self-regulation," he said.

NetRegistry managing director Larry Bloch saw other reasons for the delay in implementation of competition. "The government is using any means possible to delay implementation of competition because they don't want it to backfire on them. There's no need for this extensive public consultation on an issue which is comparatively easy to resolve. The government set up the body but is making it jump through hoops, and won't give it control. If I were on the board, I would resign, and I would recommend the rest of the board did too. After two years it has achieved nothing: no reduction in domain costs, no competition, not even an increase in debate over these issues. The whole process has more or less been a whitewash."

Bloch was equally unimpressed by claims from Professor Gerrand that Melbourne IT was the only organization which was equipped to supply the .com.au domains. Professor Gerrand said "We've put effort into growing the market, providing discounts for volume, and forming relationships with the ISPs and providing a really strong help desk service and service level guarantees on performance. We're the only one serious about providing good service."

"Well that's just complete and utter rot isn't it?" Bloch responded. "Most companies that provide domain name services would be committed to a high level of service, as would Net Registry. I don't think its [Gerrand's] place to speak for other companies."

Bloch criticized statements made in Melbourne IT's announcement of the funding, which indicated it would continue to have the monopoly on .com.au until October 2001. "I would question whether that's a misrepresentative statement to the market as the government may decide to implement competition sooner." Melbourne IT's shares surged 25 cents to $10.30 on the announcement.

Melbourne IT's potential influence on the auDA board does not end with the 80 percent funding announced. Two representatives of the company are on the board, an