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, 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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