No Escaping Junk E-Mail From Network Solutions

An unsolicited commercial e-mailing from Network Solutions, Inc. has some
Internet service providers mad as heck, but they can’t do anything about it.

The electronic message, which bore the subject line “NSI e-commerce tips,”
was mass mailed Wednesday to individuals listed as technical contacts in
NSI’s who-is database of domain registrations. The e-mail, at least the
second of its kind from the domain registrar in recent months, touted NSI’s
Web site security offerings and its partnership with Verisign.

“They have our customers as a captive audience for advertising and for
potentially taking away our business. What’s to say that their next mailing
won’t include an offer for Web hosting?” complained William Walsh, general
manager of DSo Internet Services, a Web hosting company in central California.

Like many ISPs, DSo acts as a reseller for NSI, registering domains on
behalf of its hosting customers. In the process, access providers must
supply administrative and billing contact information on their customers to
NSI.

At present, Network Solutions allows junk e-mail recipients to request that
their addresses be removed from its lists. But Walsh said the company
should also enable domain holders to opt out of receiving its advertising
at the time of registration.

Network Solutions spokesperson Christopher Clough Thursday defended the
company’s mailings, and said NSI intends to continue using the whois
database to cross-market services to domain holders. But Clough predicted
that the company may offer other opt-out options as additional
ICANN-accredited registrars enter the business and leverage their own
who-is data.

“How they handle privacy and other issues will be a differentiator between
registrars, and will be part of the choice that resellers and consumers
make about choosing a registrar,” said Clough.

The pre-payment policy in place at register.com and Melbourne IT, the first
two test-bed registrars to come online, may however prevent many ISPs from
shopping around for domain services.

Under their accredation agreement, registrars must pay a $9 fee to NSI upon
entering a domain in its shared registry database. As a result, registrars
are in turn requiring their customers pay for domains at the time of
registration. NSI currently has no pre-payment requirement.

For hosting companies that annually register hundreds of domains on behalf
of customers, moving to a registrar that requires such up-front payments
could put a big dent in their cash flow. Walsh estimates that switching
from NSI would necessitate tying up $20,000 dollars, since DSo, and not the
domain holder, would be required to pre-pay for the registration.

“We basically have to funnel our registrations through NSI. We have no
option, and neither do most ISPs.”

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