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.Kids Finally Finds a Home in the House

After a change in strategy, the House of Representatives passed "The Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002 Tuesday morning, placing ratification in the hands of the U.S. Senate.

Congress has tried to find a home for .kids the past two years to create a place children can visit on the Internet, free from the more unsavory aspects of the adult Internet -- including pornography, privacy invasion and foul language.

Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), lead sponsor of H.R. 3833, said it's about time a safe place was found for American children, with content catering to their interests.

"I have repeatedly said that libraries have children's book sections, why can't the Internet have the same type of section devoted to children's interests?" he said.

NeuStar, the .us registry for the .us country code top-level domain (ccTLD), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is charged with managing the .kids.us sub-domain. NeuStar will handle the technical side of registry operations, while the NTIA has responsibility for the content and companies found in the sub-domain extension.

The NTIA has an incredibly tough road to navigate in the coming months, as it gets a game plan together in preparation for Senate approval of the Act. There are a host of children's advocacy groups and government agencies with their own ideas of what constitutes a children's site, as well as security issues to keep adult material off the ccTLD extension.

The challenges to successfully adopting an effective .kids domain were enough for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to reject it as a TLD last year, when itnamed seven new domain extensions to join .com, .net and org. .Kids was a heavy favorite with advocacy groups and Congress, but ICANN was leery of implementation.

As one ICANN official pointed out Monday, "we didn't think it was a good idea, it was problematic," she said. "Who would enforce it, and what's the definition of a kid in a worldwide setting?"

Congress set about with Plan A to get .Kids on the Internet map, proposing the Dot Kids Name Act of 2001, which would have forced ICANN to adopt the .kids TLD. The Bill suffered a quiet end in the House's Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.

Enter Plan B, the Act proposed by lead sponsors Shimkus, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) in March.

"This has been bipartisan from its inception, when Congressman Markey and I joined together to fight pornography and other harmful Internet material," Shimkus said. "Since our first bill was introduced, the support has grown, and changes have been made to make this a better piece of legislation that is focused and manageable."