U.S. Congressmen Brian Baird and Jay Inslee filed legislation Thursday designed to block a decision by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to give VeriSign
control of the lucrative market for expired domain names ending in .com and .net.
Rival domain registrars across the country have expressed concern over the ICANN effort to implement an exclusive Wait List Service (WLS) to be maintained by VeriSign for customers interested in registering domain names that are in use by others. Currently, customers may purchase expired domain names through a number of registrar firms.
If the WLS becomes reality, VeriSign’s competitors will be eliminated from the secondary market for .com and .net domain names.
“ICANN must preserve competition in the market for domain name registration,” Baird said in a statement. “If we allow monopolistic control over the wait list for expired domain names, it will wipe out the competition among domain registrars that has brought fair pricing, diversity and expansion to the Internet marketplace.”
The bill, The Fair Transparent and Competitive Internet Naming Act of 2003, will direct the General Accounting Office (GAO) to study the operating procedures of ICANN and impose a moratorium on any changes to current rules governing domain name registration.
This moratorium will expire 30 days after the GAO study has been completed and submitted to Congress.
The domain name market was opened up to competition in 1998, and since that time hundreds of domain name registrars have emerged to compete against one another. The actual Domain Name System (DNS) is managed by ICANN, which, in turn, derives its authority from a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Commerce.
“This bill gives the public needed oversight of ICANN and will help protect small businesses and individuals in my district who will be adversely affected if one entity is allowed to control rights to all expiring domain names,” said Inslee. “The process for re-registering domain names is not broken, so ICANN should not be trying to fix it. Clearly, however, ICANN’s processes for making important decisions is broken, and this legislation will help fix that.”
The Domain Justice Coalition, a group of 15 registrars opposed to the ICANN decision, readily endorsed the new legislation.
“The proposed WLS lacks support from the Internet community and is both anti-competitive and anti-consumer,” said Clint Page, president of Dotster and spokesman for the Coalition. “Dotster and all the member companies of the Domain Justice Coalition were alarmed and upset by ICANN’s decision to move forward with implementation of the WLS, despite these glaring facts.”