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RealTime IT News

Govt. Considers Commercial Use of .US Domain

With prime real estate dwindling in the .com domain space, the U.S. Department of Commerce next month will re-open discussions on expanding the role of the .us top-level domain.

Commerce has called a public meeting for March 9 in Washington, D.C. to gather input on the future administration and management of the .us domain name space.

At present, .us addresses are used primarily by branches of state and local governments, as well as schools and libraries. But there's growing sentiment that .us should be opened up to attract commercial users. Many see it as a way to reduce conflicts between American companies and others vying for the same domain name.

To attract non-government users, experts say .us addresses will need to be pared down from the present locality-based system, which appends a city or county and state to the URL. Expansion of the .us space, however, would have to occur without disrupting current registrants who use the locality- based hierarchy.

The U.S. Postal Service is quietly campaigning to take over as coordinator of the .us space from the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California.

"The post office has a history as a trusted address manager, and we definitely have the infrastructure to handle the management of the .us domain space," said USPS spokesperson Sue Brennan.

A USPS takeover of the .us country code is expected to meet strong opposition from a number of fronts, including the Domain Name Rights Coalition, a group with the mission of representing entrepreneurs, small businesses and individuals on the Internet.

"Handing governance of a new Internet space over to an old bureaucracy is a mistake," said Kathryn Kleiman, DNRC general counsel. "We should open it up to competitive registrars, who are best suited to figure out how to make it accessible to everyone."

A Department of Commerce spokesperson said Thursday while the agency welcomes input from the Postal Service, the USPS does not have an inside track on coordinating the .us space.

As with the .com, .net, and .org top-level domains, a possible point of serious contention is resolving disputes involving trademarks. In its desire to make the .us space attractive to commercial sites, Kleiman of the DNRC says the government needs to protect the interests of personal websites and small businesses.

"There's a lot of pent-up demand for .us addresses. Trademark holders have taken everything, so we really need a .us to protect the rest of us," she said.