By Nick Patience Lobbying of the Chairs of both the House and Senate’s Commerce committees has had its effect with one of them, as yesterday Thomas Bliley, the Chair of the House Commerce Committee, wrote to US Commerce secretary William Daley and Esther Dyson, the interim chair of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and […]
By Nick Patience
Lobbying of the Chairs of both the House and Senate’s Commerce committees has had its effect with one of them, as yesterday Thomas Bliley, the Chair of the House Commerce Committee, wrote to US Commerce secretary William Daley and Esther Dyson, the interim chair of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), criticizing ICANN’s imposition of a so-called tax on domain names and for generally not being as open as it could be about its proceedings.
His criticisms mirror almost exactly those concerns raised late last week by various conservative pressure groups, who wrote to Bliley and his Senate counterpart, John McCain. They in turn had been promoted into action by Network Solutions Inc, the monopoly registry operator and near-monopoly registrar.
The timing is interesting, as this week will see a showdown between NSI and ICANN, which will require NSI to sign an accreditation agreement by Friday June 25, which is the day the registrar market is thrown open to competition – but only to those companies that sign such an agreement. NSI has declined to sign such an agreement thus far and ICANN potentially has the power to pull the plug on NSI’s core business, thought some sort of compromise seems likely at this late stage.
Bliley’s letters are the first step in the now-inevitable investigation of ICANN and its practices by the House Commerce Committee. He asks Dyson a set of specific questions centered around the imposition of a fee of $1 per domain registration, which will be payable to ICANN by the ICANN-accredited domain name registrars, plus a long list of other questions. He wants the answers submitted by July 6. Bliley wants to know if ICANN conducted a legal analysis of the fee before it decided upon the amount – which could vary up or down in the future.
He also wants to know if ICANN conducted a similar analysis of its authority to potentially terminate NSI’s authority or over its claims to the intellectual property rights to the data collected by registrars.
Bliley also wants to know who composed ICANN’s $5.9m budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 1999; whether any ICANN board members are paid over and above expenses; why some of its meetings are closed to the public; when a membership is likely to be in place and how that membership will elect a full board. In addition, Bliley asked a host of other questions covering the gamut of issues surrounding the DNS.
Bliley also seeks an answer to the question that has only really been half-answered thus far; how exactly was the board chosen? It is known that the late Jon Postel and his counsel took the lead in picking the board members, but the exact path some of them took to the board is still not entirely clear.
Bliley has always been more involved in the politics of the net than McCain, and as McCain is busy with his presidential campaign, it is not surprising Bliley beat him to the punch. Last October, Bliley wrote to Daley and Ira Magaziner, then the White House’s chief internet policy advisor, about concerns over the transition of the domain name system from governmental to private sector control.