A top official with the group that manages the Internet’s address system said on Wednesday a program to allow unlimited introduction of new Web domain names should roll out on January despite growing calls to delay it.
Kurt Pritz, senior vice president of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, gave no indication at his second Hill hearing in a week that his group is willing to delay the new domain-name program. Some lawmakers and a broad coalition of business groups and nonprofits want ICANN to think again about the plan, which would allow for virtually unlimited numbers of new domain-name extensions.
The program would allow for the introduction of almost any new domain name, from the name of a company such as .facebook to a category such as .hotel.
“I don’t think this is ready for prime time,” Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee, said during a hearing before the subcommittee. “I think the suggestion that it be delayed and consensus be developed by stakeholders is a good one.”
Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., agreed, as did members of the Senate Commerce Committee during a hearing before that panel last week. Walden said his panel would continue to look for ways to address some of the concerns with ICANN’s new domain-name plan.
Major U.S. and international corporations and many nonprofits worry that the introduction of hundreds or even thousands of new domain names could cost them millions by forcing them to defensively register their brands. They also say it could increase Internet fraud and end up confusing consumers.
“There is nothing sacred about the Jan. 12 rollout,” Dan Jaffe, the Association of National Advertiser’s executive vice president, told the subcommittee. “Before it proceeds, ICANN should step back” and reconsider the proposal.
But Pritz defended the process ICANN used to develop the new domain-name program.
“This process has not been rushed,” he said. “It’s been seven years in the making. It’s well thought out.” He added that all the issues raised by critics in recent months had been raised before and considered.
Following the hearing, Pritz said the decision on whether the proposal should be delayed is not up to him but ICANN’s stakeholders. He said, however, he is not inclined to delay it.
ICANN, a California-based nonprofit, was picked by the U.S. government to take over management of the Internet’s domain-name system in 1998 and operates with limited oversight by the Commerce Department and the input of the Internet’s stakeholders, including governments. Fiona Alexander with the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration said while her agency takes the concerns raised about the new domain-name program seriously, she indicated the agency is satisfied with the safeguards ICANN has put in place and will monitor the rollout of the program closely.
Joshua Bourne, president of the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse, said one step Congress could take to address the possible fallout from the ICANN plan would be to fix a 1999 law to crack down on cybersquatting, which involves registering someone else’s trademark as a domain name with the intent of profiting from it. He said the law has done little to deter cybersquatting and predicted that the problem may get worse if ICANN goes forward with its plan to vastly expand the domain-name space.
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