Commerce reviews new ICANN-VeriSign deal

The US Department of Commerce is "pleased with the progress" made between domain-name registry VeriSign and the Internet...

The US Department of Commerce is "pleased with the progress" made between domain-name registry VeriSign and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), as the two groups try to forge a new contract limiting VeriSign's hold on the registry of the .com, .org and .net domains.

ICANN proposes to change its contract with VeriSign to invite competing bids to operate the registry, as mandated by ICANN's charter. VeriSign maintains the database for the three Internet domains. ICANN's proposed contract changes ask VeriSign to give up its .org registry by 2002 and its .net registry by 2005.

"ICANN and VeriSign made some changes that had to be approved by the board of directors of ICANN, the board of directors of VeriSign and the Department of Commerce," said Brett LaGrande, an ICANN spokesman. The Commerce Department, which created ICANN as a non-governmental standards body for overseeing the Internet address system, retains approval authority over contracts made between ICANN and companies that serve as domain-name registries.

Thus far, VeriSign is the only company serving as a registry for the .com, .net and .org domains. VeriSign gained control of the three domain registries with the acquisition in March 2000 of Network Solutions.

VeriSign has two distinct businesses under contract negotiation: as a registry, it records which domain names belong to which users, while as a registrar it acts as an intermediary between domain name registrants and the database of domain names. There are many competing registrars for the .com, .net and .org domains, but only one registry. In exchange for accepting ICANN's contract changes, VeriSign would be allowed to continue competing in the address-registration business, instead of being required to sell off the division under mandate from a previous contract.

The Commerce Department had kind words for ICANN's proposal this week, but did not confirm that it had given final approval.

"We have communicated our general thinking, are pleased with the progress, and are confident an agreement can be reached in the near term," said Ted Kassinger of the Department of Commerce general counsel.

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