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NeuStar: America's New Verisign?

The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) has awarded administration of the United States registry to NeuStar, officials announced Tuesday.

Jeffrey Ganek, NeuStar chief executive officer, said that current .us domain owners need not worry about their domain names, which will be grandfathered into system free of charge for the extent of the DoC contract.

NeuStar's successful bid for the four-year contract (with options up to six years) of the country code top-level domain (ccTLD) now puts control of two highly anticipated TLDs under its stewardship. The company performs a similar role in the telephone industry, managing the telephone numbers (IP addresses) for North America's telephone customers (domain extensions).

The domain is a ccTLD, which means that only U.S. entities are eligible to register for a domain within the extension. NeuStar said registrants must be American:

  • Citizens
  • Residents
  • Companies
  • Governments
  • Organizations
  • Foreign associations/operations with a legitimate American presence (think Sony or Yamaha)

Although no date has been set for the sunrise registration of trademark holders, Ganek told internetnews.com he expects to launch live .us registrations sometime in the first half of 2002 and feature robust and reliable new technology.

The NeuStar chief expects his company's proven experience in the telecom world, paired with its "thick" registry technology, which provides real-time domain name administration updates to sidestep many of the current domain hijacking problems at VeriSign, will make .us one of the safest and most reliable domains in the world.

"Especially in this time, safety and reliability matter in the U.S.," Ganek said. "Americans need their Internet domain to be as reliable as their telephone number."

The company is quickly collecting domain extensions in the manner of VeriSign, administrators of the Internet's mighty .com, .net and .org registries. VeriSign won administration of the popular domain extensions from the Department of Commerce (DoC) in the 1990s. The .us extension, while not expected to be as popular as .com, is expected to generate a lot of interest among companies and organizations that missed out on the .com craze.

It's because of the success of .com and other extensions that many critics have decried the DoC's decision to give over management of the .us domain free of charge. It even prompted Congressional leaders to wonder why the DoC was giving away a "public resource" to private industry for their gain, at the expense of U.S. taxpayers.

The domain, mainly used by local, state and federal agencies, has been operating free of charge. While NeuStar officials say current domain owners will get to keep their name for now, they don't say how long that benefice will extend.

NeuLevel, a subsidiary of NeuStar (which claims 90 percent ownership) formed specifically to bid for the .biz domain, has been under fire almost since before it won the .biz contract from ICANN. It's proposed lottery system almost immediately drew fire from critics and registrars.

As many predicted, less than 30 days after opening its doors, the .biz owners had a class action lawsuit filed against them from a jilted domain name wannabe who lost his lottery bid for a domain name.

The suit has and will continue to put a strain on the fledgling operation's revenues and is a possible reason the company has delayed its live registration until Nov. 7, although officials maintain they are delaying live registrations to conduct more tests.

Ganek said that the NeuStar corporation, while it will retain sole possession of the database and management of the .us domain, will look to its subsidiary for lessons learned.

"NeuStar is going to apply the capabilities that we've developed in the telecom world as well as the experience we've gained in building and introducing .biz," Ganek said, but ".us will be built and operated by NeuStar."

In related news, the NTIA awarded a cooperative agreement of the .edu TLD Tuesday to non-profit organization EDUCAUSE for the next five years.

EDUCAUSE, comprised of more than 1,800 colleges, universities, corporations and related associations, gives out the domain extension only to institutions of higher learning. The current registry, VeriSign, will continue to update domain owner's administrative details until it can be transferred to the new owners.

EDUCAUSE plans to start its sunrise period Nov. 12.