ICANN Warned Again In The US On New Internet Domains

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The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) should at least pursue a slow start with new top-level domains (TLDs), members of the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology asked at a hearing in Washington DC, today. ICANN is on track to opening the application phase for an unlimited number of new TLDs, to allow competition with the existing .com, .org, and .info for brand owners, but also communities around the world.

There is a lot of pressure, especially from the Coalition of Responsible Internet Domain Oversight (CRIDO) – which includes large publishing and advertising industry associations and big enterprises from the US but also some other countries, to stop the launch of the application phase on 12 January. The unlimited expansion of the domain name space will be too costly for brand owners who will have to protect their trademarks everywhere, and will be too open to fraudulent registration behaviour and tainted by conflicts of interest, Dan Jaffe, executive vice president of the US Association of National Advertisers (ANA), said during the hearing.

Former ICANN President Esther Dyson said she had changed her mind on the TLD expansion and found it a “complete waste”. Users would expect marriott.com, marriott.hotel and resorts.marriott to lead to the same place, so there is no value added by the expansion.

But Fiona Alexander, associate administrator at the Office of International Affairs of the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) explained how rules had developed protective measures against abuse over time and with pressure from governments, especially over the last year. That the final applicant guidebook does not reflect every proposal from international governments does not mean that the process had failed, but it is an expression of the multi-stakeholder approach in the ICANN, Alexander said.

Answering a question by Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, as to whether the NTIA had the ability to halt the process, Alexander chose to refer to evaluations of the application process once implemented for a first batch of TLDs. There would be a natural slow-down of new TLDs being made available due to the procedural steps, Alexander said.

So while Jaffe referenced a harsh comment by Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz that an unlimited expansion of the namespace would be a disaster and Klobuchar said there would be more hearings, so far ICANN seems to be still on track for 12 January.

The hearing website is here.

Monika Ermert may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

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