New Domain Registrars Report Problems

Some of the new testbed domain registrars are already reporting problems as the initial phases of the new system that will handle registrations is just getting underway. They are also expressing frustrations over the contracts that set the ground rules for competition.

According to published reports, at least two of the five new registrars
that will compete with Network Solutions have not obtained software necessary to access the master registry from
NSI, and none have set a date for when actual domain name sales competition will begin.

NSI, meanwhile, said it handed over its software to all the new registrars except America Online, adding that it has only refused to deliver to those who do not meet terms of its contract.

Ken Stubbs, chairman of the Internet Council of Registrars, or CORE, told many registrars are unhappy about the fact that they didn’t get to see the contract they signed with Network Solutions until they were picked from the dozens of applicants.

“I don’t think any of the registrars in the initial testbed are happy with the contract — it’s far too one sided and there’s no room for negotiation. We didn’t even see the contract until the day of the press conference. You apply to become a testbed registrar not even knowing what you were getting yourself into after you by accredited by ICANN. They never showed (the registrars) the contract,” Stubbs said.

Stubbs said one of the most problematic elements of the contract is the requirement that registrars take out a $100,000 insurance policy payable to NSI.

Stubbs said CORE has encountered problems with securing a performance bond, because they are normally assigned to large corporations and not non-profits such as CORE.

He said CORE is lining up $100,000 in cash to satisfy NSI’s requirement. But he said the Department of Commerce, which negotiated the contract on behalf of registrars, needs to go back to the table if the process is going to work.

“We have confidence that the Commerce Department and the people responsible for oversight will make the necessary changes in order to make the contractual relationship more equitable for non-testbed registrars. If they don’t do the right thing, the registrars in the future will be nobody but the AT&Ts, AOLs and big companies. The little guys will be exempted from the process.”

There is also friction over how domain disputes will be handled. NSI has refused to release the registration software unless it approves the registrar’s guidelines for handling disputes.

Despite the delays, NSI and government officials insist the companies are on schedule for the test-bed period, which will end in late June.

None of the software-equipped registrars have announced when competitive online services will begin, citing software system development as the first goal.

ICANN President Mike Roberts is still confident that the process will work. However, he warns a shakeup in the market is inevitable.

“I’m pretty confident we’ll end up with 50 to 100 accredited registrars going into business this summer. The business probably isn’t big enough to support all of those over time, but it’s not up to us or the government to pick winners and losers. This is about rewarding energy and hard work.”

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