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.

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