House Committee to Investigate ICANN’s TLD Choices

Leah Gallegos is on her way to Washington, D.C.

Gallegos, president of Atlantic Root Network Inc., is getting ready to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday in what she considers the outright theft of her domain name by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Last year, ICANN asked businesses worldwide to submit their applications, and a non-refundable $50,000 fee, for the next crop of Internet top-level domain (TLD) names, to ease the naming burden on existing domains like .com and .net.

The end result was ICANN’s November selection of seven new TLDs: .aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name and .pro.

The decision outraged small business leaders, who say ICANN was bought out by big business interests. They immediately began pressuring legislators to look at the nomination process.

What galls the president of Atlantic Root Network so much is the fact that she has been the owner of .biz since 1995, and has about 3,200 customers using that domain name.

Contrary to popular belief, there are more than one Internet domain name root zones on the planet. ICANN, a U.S. non-profit organization that finds its roots in the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, was established in the hopes of becoming the global domain name authority. But others, notably the PacificRoot root server, have been around since 1985.

These different root zones in use by international organizations are bound and abide by an informal pact to not step on the feet of other root zones. One of which is the Los Angeles-based ICANN.

By awarding the seven new TLD’s, Gallegos maintains, ICANN arrogantly ignored the TLDs already in place at other root servers and could snarl the Internet for years to come. She said once the new TLDs start getting sold through ICANN’s root server, it will confuse other servers using existing domain names around the world.

“The analogy I like to use is what we have here with the telephone companies,” Gallegos said. “What would New Yorkers do if Verizon (Communications) and SBC (Communications) both decided to give out the same telephone number in the 212 calling area to two different people? It would cause a lot of chaos is what it would do. In effect, ICANN is going to be giving out phone numbers that are already in use.”

Atlantic Root Network and Gallegos lost its bid for TLD acceptance to NeuStar, a former division of Lockheed Martin and current North American numbering plan administrator, which is the central database for virtually every call placed on the continent.

Another bone of contention with the international community is ICANN’s refusal to accept domain names already in use by other servers. .Web, which has been in use since 1996 and is used by roughly 20,000 people, was rejected by ICANN after a contentious battle between Registry Image Online Design Inc., and registrar consortium giant Afilias Group.

Greg Hartl, RIOD chief executive officer, said in a statement after the November decision that he was dismayed by the organization’s rejection of a popular TLD.

“IOD is disappointed that ICANN chose not to include .web as a new TLD,” Frangie said. “Over the last five years, we have established the most sophisticated pioneer registry in the country. By any objective standard, IOD passes all the criteria that ICANN established at the beginning of the competitive process. Equally as important, we enjoy strong support within the Internet community.”

It’s that refusal that has Gallegos stumped.

Vince Cert, ICANN chairman and senior vice president of WorldCom Corp’s Internet and Technology division, rejected Afilias’ bid for the .web TLD because RIOD already had a functioning registry in place.

“On this basis, the board should have rejected (NeuStar’s) .biz TLD proposal,” Gallegos said.

Enter the Committee on Energy and Commerce, led by chairman Billy Tauzin (R-LA), and its meet

ing Thursday.

At the meeting will be a panel of interested parties, including Gallegos and representatives from NeuStar and ICANN. Each will be given five minutes to present his or her case before the House committee, which will then question the panel members for the rest of the day.

Gallegos hopes for the best at this meeting, but is uncertain about the future of her company. Failure to convince legislators will put her out of business, she said, but she still maintains hope for victory.

“I don’t know how this is going to end up,” Gallegos said. “I believe I have a better chance with this administration, since Republicans have always been more for small businesses, but I don’t know how far that will go.”

NeuStar and ICANN representatives declined to comment on the scheduled hearings.

News Around the Web