"Basically, we want to know what we are paying for," said Bart Boswinkel, a member of the executive committee of the Council of European National Top-Level Domain Registries (Centr).
Centr is primarily concerned about the management of the Internet's 13 root servers. These servers contain name server information for all of the world's top-level domains.
"The Internet will break if the root servers fail. We would like to know how these root servers are managed, what the operational agreements are and how they are secured. We want to guarantee a reasonable root server operation, because our service depends on the root servers," Boswinkel said.
"We have not had trouble with the system, but ICANN is responsible for it and we are supposed to contribute to ICANN. We want a service agreement in return," he said. "Centr members might withhold payments to ICANN if we don't get such an agreement."
However, Annie Renard of AFNIC, the French registry, said there has been some trouble with the root servers.
"There were some delays changing technical information on the Internet protocol address of the DNS servers for some ccTLDs. We need a good response time and performance," Renard wrote in an e-mail response to questions from IDG News Service.
The agreement between a ccTLD registry and ICANN must contain a section about the security and stability of the root, according to Renard.
"The root is crucial to the Internet community as without it the system will break down and the customer domains will go down. Therefore the TLDs need to have insurance about the stability and an agreement on the service level," Renard wrote.
ICANN relies on funding from the European registries that handle top level domains (such as .uk and .de), many of whom are members of Centr. Members such as SIDN (the Netherlands), DENIC (Germany) and Nominet (UK) each contributed $85,000 (£58,910) to ICANN last year, Boswinkel said.
ICANN and the European registries have been working to formalise their relationships. The system of voluntary contributions from the European registries to ICANN is set to be converted to set payments.
The European registries do not oppose a formal relationship but expect to get an agreed level of service for their money. The topic was discussed at a meeting of Centr and ICANN officials in Luxembourg in December.
"In Luxembourg for the first time we talked about what we want from each other. We had only been shoving draft contracts back and forth until then," said Boswinkel.
ICANN is apprehensive about signing agreements because it could mean the organisation is liable when things go wrong, Boswinkel said.
"This is a legal matter that will have to be worked out and it will take time," he said, adding that ICANN has to come to an agreement with each individual ccTLD registry because Centr cannot sign agreements on behalf of its members.