Monday, November 28, 2005

ISPCP Statement, almost

Mark McFadden writes: "The constituency put out a call for comments on the proposed versign agreements. I've seen no comments, so I decided to post my personal thoughts."

The vast majority of people impacted by the proposed Verisign settlement are connected to the Internet through the community of Internet Service Providers. Repeatedly, our constituency has stood for reliability, fairness and predictability for all of our customers - the users of the Internet - large and small. Under most circumstances we would welcome a settlement that allows ICANN to return to its core activities. The Verisign dispute has required staff, financial and community resources that could have been better used on other tasks in the last two years. Under most circumstances we would also welcome a settlement that provides a firm foundation for ICANN's finances. The uncertainty regarding income from .com has made it difficult to do strategic planning, help in the prioritization of ICANN activities, and even distinguish between what is possible for ICANN to accomplish and what is not possible. Regretfully, the ISP community within ICANN cannot welcome the current version of the settlement.

While ICANN has succeeded at putting choice and competition in the names space, we note that .com remains the dominant top-level domain. It will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. With that in mind it is essential that any new.com agreement provide fairness and equity to the entire Internet community. We believe that the .com agreement with Verisign does not meet this standard. Decisions about funding models for ICANN should not be based on individual contract negotiations with individual providers of services. The ISP community believes that ICANN would set a dangerous precedent if it based financial and strategic decisions on private negotiations with individual vendors of services.We believe that no single entity should have perpetual rights to a resource under ICANN's administrative control. There must be a system of checks and balances in place to ensure that due process and meaningful arbitration is available to users of registry services. Unfortunately, the .com proposal appears to grant Verisign unlimited control of .com without any of these safeguards. This puts the .com registry on a completely different setting than any of the other registries.

We also believe that the fundamental costs of management and operation for registries is lower each year. Unfortunately, the proposed settlement allows Verisign to increase their prices 7% per year without any review or safeguard. Regardless of whether or not Verisign intends to take advantage of this, the principle is simply wrong: prices for domain name registration should not rise in the future - the costs should be lower over time. Our customers don't work with registries to register their names - that task is in the hands of registrars. It is unlikely that registrars will be able to absorb the costs on increases in the ICANN fees or registry fees. The result is that those increases will be passed directly to the registrants. The Q&A posted by ICANN staff on the proposed agreements suggests that the 7% allowance is allowed to provide for a transition to market forces to determine prices. The ISP community notes, however, that there is no "market" when a dominant, monopoly is allowed to control a single resource. The ISP community feels that the monopoly registry service ought to have a predictable fair cost that is directly related to the actual cost of providing the administrative registry service. Allowing for incremental 7% per annum increases in unfair to our customers - many of whom have no choice but to stay in .com for business, branding or technical reasons. The ISPCP recommends the following action:- [* I leave this to further discussion *]

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