ICANN: Monopoly Furor Follows Twomey Appointment

[SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA] — After opening its quarterly forum to public input, the International
Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been criticized for
protecting the monopoly of US domain name registrar VeriSign, and of not
supporting more open international competition among registry businesses.

Public debate has focused around a backflip by the ICANN over an agreement
it announced in 1999, to reduce the registry monopoly enjoyed by VeriSign by
forcing the company to give up either its domain name registration business
or its domain name registry business, which involves governing the technical
process of registering an address. As VeriSign receives nearly $12 for each
domain name registered, it was expected to keep this latter business.

Two months before ICANN’s deadline for VeriSign to choose the business it
will continue with, though, the international organization has unveiled a
new proposal that would allow VeriSign to keep both businesses.

This debate followed criticisms by VeriSign’s rival domain name registrar
Tucows, which is lobbying for new privacy policies after claiming concern
that the current Registrar Agreement between ICANN and VeriSign could allow
registrars and their resellers to use registrants’ details for unsolicited
marketing.

“This is occurring regularly as the names are sold, generating a great deal
of spam,” said Tucows spokesperson Tim Denton, who said that the current
arrangement provides opt-out facilities for registrants to choose whether to
receive future communication, rather than a more user-friendly opt-in
system.

These controversies have somewhat overshadowed what ICANN no doubt saw as a
more positive start on its Melbourne conference, when it announced this week
the re-election of Dr Paul Twomey to its Government Advisory Committee
(GAC).

Dr Twomey, the former CEO of the National Office for the Information
Economy, was initially elected to the Committee in 1999.

The GAC provides advice to ICANN on government-related issues surrounding
domain names, such as registration and top level domains. Among his areas of
focus in his second term, are the hundreds of governments worldwide that are
not yet involved with the Committee, who Dr Twomey said are yet to
understand the significance of the domain name system to incorporate it into
their national strategy.

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