RealTime IT News

Guest Commentary: The Reliable Internet?

If you have been using the Internet for several years, then you remember when your experience was hit or miss.

A busy signal on a dial-up connection was commonplace, the site you wanted to visit returned an error page, or you just didn't know the name of the site you wanted.

Nowadays, we have come to expect high-speed, always-on access to the Internet and Web sites. We have come to rely on it to run and manage our businesses, sell and buy goods and communicate with friends, family and business associates.

You may take that reliability for granted as you should. But there is a lot going on behind the scenes that allows you to take it for granted.

Among them is that the infrastructure that connects you to Web sites must always work. For .com and .net domain names, that service is performed by VeriSign, and my job at VeriSign is to manage the business unit that makes them operate.

The fact that .com and .net have been 100 percent available for eight straight years, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day since VeriSign has operated them attests to how serious we take that responsibility. An important aspect of that responsibility is the recognition by the Internet community that the Internet is growing dramatically and the resources required to support that growth are growing dramatically, as well.

Last week, ICANN, the technical coordination body for the Internet, approved an agreement that gives VeriSign the flexibility to adjust .com domain prices, which are currently set at $6, over the next six years. Under the agreement, .com price increases would be limited to a total of $1.86 over six years.

VeriSign's prices have been frozen for approximately eight years, unlike the prices of businesses in virtually any other area of commerce, despite increased service, demand, and threats to the secure and stable operation of this critical infrastructure.

This pricing flexibility is important not only to VeriSign, but to all registry operators. It ensures these operators have the ability to continue investing in the infrastructure to maintain operation at the levels you expect and rely on in the face of the challenges of the Internet and sophisticated attacks on it.

This is no small feat: the traffic on the core Internet infrastructure has quadrupled over the last five years, as Internet usage has increased, and attacks on the Internet have grown not only in frequency but sophistication.

For example, so-called Denial-of-Service attacks bombard the core infrastructure multiple times a day attempting to slow down and paralyze the networks that run the Internet. It is not uncommon for thousands of computers to be coordinated to execute these attacks.

These attacks require that VeriSign constantly test and upgrade our networks. And we must remain ever vigilant and prepare because these incidents are increasing as voice traffic, e-commerce transactions and Internet traffic multiply at exponential rates.

The case for continued investment in the security and stability of the Internet is clear. Unfortunately, a small but vocal group of eight registrars, the middlemen who process orders for domain names, are attempting to undermine the proposed agreement by claiming that any price adjustment should only be for prices to go down. They cite as their "proof" that technology component prices are going down.

Given the complexity and scale of the Internet, and the ever-increasing security threats, this position is not only naïve but borders on irresponsible.

However, their rationale is clear. This group of eight companies wants to protect their own margins without considering the consequences of the impact it may have on other businesses or consumers.

And their "pro-consumer" track record is not particularly good. Last year when .net prices were reduced, they pocketed the $10 million in savings instead of passing it on to their customers.

VeriSign's position has been consistent and clear -- ensure that the Internet remains reliable and always on and therefore available so that your e-commerce site operates, your e-mails get through and you can visit the Web sites you want.

It is important that we not trade the future of the Internet for everyone for the short term gain of a few.

Mark McLaughlin is senior vice president and general manager of VeriSign Internet Services.