Damaged Justice frogfarm at yakko.cs.wmich.edu
Mon Aug 4 18:19:22 PDT 1997

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  U.S. government stepping in to sort out Net domain names
   WASHINGTON - Concerns about the future of how Internet domain names
   will be managed got an airing during a two-day forum last week. But
   how those concerns may get addressed remains unresolved.
   The domain name issue has drawn a lot of attention lately. The company
   that has a virtual monopoly on popular names, Network Solutions Inc.
   (NSI), has been notified that it will not have its contract renewed in
   April 1998. Many say that will bring much needed competition.
   Recently, the Clinton administration has gotten involved in the issue
   on various levels. The Justice Department is investigating NSI's role
   as a primary domain name registrar.
   Beyond that, the Departments of Commerce and State are looking into a
   plan, issued three months ago by the Internet International Ad Hoc
   Committee (IAHC), that would increase the amount of domain names
   (designations such as .com and .org) used on the Internet. The plan
   also expands the worldwide management of those names so that up to 28
   new registrars may be added.
   The administration's involvement came after many businesses complained
   about the proposed plan's lack of protection for trademark and
   intellectual property rights.
   A two-day forum to address such concerns was held here Wednesday and
   Thursday. Sponsored by the Information Technology Association of
   America and other Internet groups, it was attended by representatives
   of the Clinton administration, businesses and advocates. "We have to
   keep the Internet community talking," says ITAA president Harris
   Domain names are essentially addresses for the Internet. Companies,
   agencies or groups apply for an individual address within such domains
   as .com, .gov, or .org. As use of the Internet has grown, companies
   have put increasing importance on obtaining and protecting domain
   names related to their companies.
   When entities apply to NSI, it charges $100 to register new addresses
   for two years and $50 annually to renew them. NSI then finds an
   Internet number, just like a telephone number, to correspond with the
   domain address.
   Many have complained about NSI's inability to quickly provide domain
   registrations. In its proposed stock offering, NSI says it is
   cooperating with the Justice Department inquiry. And at the forum, NSI
   CEO Gabe Battista said that sharing management of .com, .net and .org
   domains was "on the table."
   The U.S. government has nurtured the Internet to its present strapping
   status from its birth in 1969 as the Defense Department's Advanced
   Research Projects Agency network. "We're very anxious to support its
   transition to full-fledged adulthood," says Commerce Department
   spokesperson Becky Burr. "But we don't just let our children grow up
   and do whatever they want."
   The Internet community usually seeks to avoid government intervention,
   but so far, U.S. government's actions have been met with approval.
   Among complaints about the international plan is that it did not have
   adequate participation by Internet service providers or groups
   representing individual citizens, plus it gives too much power to the
   Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union.
   "Our customers are not well-served by (the plan's) rapid resolution,"
   says William Schrader, president of PSINet, a large commercial
   Internet service provider. "The government has held back on purpose.
   But there is a time governments can assist, and this is one of those
   The State Department has asked for more information on the Geneva
   agency's role in the management of proposed new domains, among them
   .firm, .rec and .web. The Commerce Department takes public comments
   until Aug. 18.
   The Ad-Hoc Committee continues its plan and is taking registrar
   applications. But, says committee member Dave Crocker, an Internet
   e-mail pioneer, "We'll all keep talking."
   By Mike Snider, USA TODAY
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