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Nations Protest Against ICANN

Trouble is again brewing for the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), as The Council of European National Top-Level Registries (CENTR), voted at a meeting in Trondheim, Norway last week to ignore nearly $1 million in bills issued by the Internet's private management authority.

CENTR, a coalition of companies and non-profit organizations that manage about 30 of Europe's country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs), objected to ICANN levying fees for unspecified services and with no formal agreement as to ICANN's authority over their registries. ICANN's funding requirements were based on the number of domains each ccTLD had registered.

"We realize there needs to be an ICANN -- an authority -- and it needs to be stable and financially stable," Fay Howard, general manager of CENTR told InternetNews.com. "But CENTR is absolutely against the domain name tax. It has no relevance, really, in many areas. There is also a feeling amongst some of the registries that a lot of the money in the 99-00 expenditure for ICANN is legal bills in sorting out the NSI-U.S. government-ICANN contract, which has really no bearing on the ccTLDs. I think (the registries) would maybe have liked to have more say in budgets and maybe being agreed these amounts before invoices were issued."

NSI, or Network Solutions Inc. held an exclusive government contract to register .com, .net and .org domains until last year, when ICANN and NSI finally reached an agreement that opened NSI's monopoly to competition.

Most of the funding for ICANN's $4.3 million budget comes from companies, like NSI and its competitors, that register lucrative commercial, or .com, domains. Those companies have agreed to make donations to ICANN based on the number of domains they register. But ICANN's budget task force, which does include representatives of ccTLDs, agreed that country-code operators would be responsible for 35 percent of the budget.

Many ccTLD operators have questioned the value of the services ICANN offers them. ICANN has said it needs funding to fulfill its mission to "build sensible policies and structures to promote the growth and stability of the Internet." But many ccTLD operators say that, while they support the concept, such platitudes are vague at best. ICANN does administer the Internet's root servers, which for the most part consists of entering names into a database.

And, a great number of ccTLDs are run by non-profits which have few or no charging mechanisms to generate the funding ICANN has required.

CENTR sent a letter to Michael Roberts, ICANN's chief executive officer, pointing out that there are no contracts, funding "arrangements" or binding relationships in place between CENTR members and ICANN.

The letter sent by CENTR said the organization has five essential issues:

  • The provision under contract of root services
  • The sovereign right of the local Internet community in each CENTR country to manage its own ccTLD
  • The desire to participate in any policy formulation or restructuring activities by ICANN while retaining local policy implementation
  • That no authority is conceded to ICANN by any CENTR member on the management of any ccTLD
  • The establishment of meaningful mechanisms for CENTR/CENTR members to participate in the planning of both the expenditure and the funding aspects of the ICANN budget.

"Most of the European ccTLDs are not-for-profit organizations that run with the blessing of their communities," Howard said. "I think that once it is decided that you are the ccTLD manager, the policies that each ccTLD sets down are their own sovereign situations and the authority of ICANN in this respect should be quite limited."

CENTR has agreed to continue discussions with ICANN on its five essential issues, and will donate $600,000 to ICAN



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