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Advocates Upset Over Verisign/ICANN Flipflop

Critics are upset over the Department of Commerce's likely approval of the contract arrangement between VeriSign and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

DoC officials met with executives at the domain registry company Monday night to address "concerns" they had over the deal that keeps VeriSign in control of both its registry and registrar business.

After the meeting, DoC general counsel Ted Kassinger said the department is confident an agreement would be reach in the "near-term."

That's quite a switch after one meeting, said Larry Erlich, president of DomainRegistry.com, who has been fighting for deeper scrutiny of the relationship between ICANN and VeriSign.

"I've given up hope on any last minute negotiations," Erlich said. "The way I'm interpreting things is that it's over, with the department rubber stamping its approval of the ICANN-VeriSign deal. They obviously scared the department into thinking the stability of the Internet was at risk."

VeriSign was obviously able to convince the financial community, too. Goldman, Sachs & Co., a financial investment firm, released a report Monday that sided with the corporate view.

"We firmly continue to believe that VeriSign is one of the few organizations that have both the financial stability and technology infrastructure to ensure the stability of the current Domain Name System (DNS)," the report concluded.

Manuel Asensio, president and chief executive office of Asensio & Co, an equity research firm and vocal critic of the VeriSign/ICANN arrangement, said the DoC didn't want to look at the issues surrounding the deal and didn't ask for input from the Internet community.

"They never even let us or our representatives attend the meetings," Asensio said. "It should have been an open meeting, there are laws that require open meetings for policy discussions. The whole proceeding is just a veiled rubber stamp."

At issue is VeriSign's dominance in the domain name game. In addition to control over the registry of the .com, .net and .org domain names, it is also the largest registrar in the nation, after the purchase last year of Network Solutions, Inc.

The situation has many advocates voicing concerns of collusion between VeriSign and ICANN, which is gets its overview from the DoC.

Brian O'Shaughnessy, VeriSign spokesperson, said that charges of collusion between the DoC and VeriSign/ICANN are unwarranted.

"Any new administration has to look at the policies of the previous administrations, and they need to review this very technical issue," O'Shaughnessy said. "It's a very steep learning curve for the employees of the DoC.

"I thinks it is a disservice to the employees of the DoC to in any way insinuate there's anything other than ethical behavior going on," he continued. "The review process has been a very difficult one because the issues are cumbersome."



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