CORRECTION: An earlier version of this stoy incorrectly identified Association of National Advertisers Executive Vice President Dan Jaffe.
As the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers meets this week in Senegal, the organization that manages the Internet address system is facing a growing revolt from businesses worried about a plan to vastly expand the number of available domain names.
The National Retail Federation is the latest U.S. business group to voice concern with ICANN’s proposal to vastly expand the number of Internet addresses that can be created beyond the 22 existing groups of generic higher-level domain names, such as .com. ICANN approved the plan in June to expand the availability of generic top-level domains from the familiar .com, .org, and .edu extensions, as well as those assigned to countries such as .us and .uk, to just about anything from a .peace or a .sport to .hellokitty.
The NRF on Friday wrote to the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which oversees ICANN, asking the agency to push for a delay of the new plan. ICANN, a California-based nonprofit, was picked by the U.S. government in 1998 to take over the Internet’s management system, and the Commerce Department still maintains some oversight over the group.
“While complete certainty is not possible, when an entity, such as ICANN, is operating under government authority or imprimatur, it should not move forward on matters that potentially affect major segments of the nation’s economy without providing reasonably circumscribed, up-front guidance. To date, that guidance is lacking,” NRF Senior Vice President Mallory Duncan wrote in the letter to NTIA.
ICANN’s board and its stakeholders will be discussing the new domain proposal at ICANN’s third public meeting of the year this week in Senegal’s capital, Dakar. ICANN is scheduled to begin opening up the application process for its new higher-level domain-name program in January.
During his opening remarks on Monday, ICANN President Rod Beckstrom said ICANN has been trying to educate stakeholders about the new domain-name program, but he did not mention the ongoing concerns over the program or any proposals to change it.
Several business groups representing a broad range of U.S. and international corporations want ICANN to drop the proposal or delay it so that stakeholders could make the program more palatable. They worry that the proposal will cost trademark owners millions of dollars by forcing them to register their own domain names or register their brands in the new domain names launched by others.
Among the groups leading the charge against the proposal is the Association of National Advertisers, which represents a long list of major companies, from Apple to Bank of America to Kraft Foods. ANA Executive Vice President Dan Jaffe told National Journal on Tuesday that 21 groups so far have voiced concern with the proposal, including the Interactive Advertising Bureau and its European counterpart, the National Restaurant Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He expects a handful of additional groups to join the cause this week.
“We have decided that we will take any actions that are necessary to try to have ICANN go about this process in a more reasoned and controlled fashion,” Jaffe said. “Opening the name spigot is extraordinarily radical and reckless.”
He added that while his group may eventually be forced to take legal action, for now his organization and others are focused on trying to work with ICANN on the issue and broaden the coalition that is seeking changes to the new domain-name program.
Steve DelBianco, executive director of NetChoice and policy chairman of ICANN’s business constituency group, warned ICANN during a meeting with the board on Tuesday that if it doesn’t do more to address the growing concerns with the program, ICANN’s existence could be put at risk.