The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers plans to open seven offices outside the US over the next couple of years, and hopes to have four of them running before the end of June 2005, an executive said yesterday.
Announcing the final passage of the organization’s 2004-2005 budget, ICANN’s vice president of business affairs Kurt Pritz told ComputerWire that expansion is still a priority, but much of the cash originally planned has been allocated elsewhere.
Pritz said the $15.8m budget, which required the consent of domain name registrars representing 66.7% of registered ICANN domains, a threshold achieved this week, reduced spending on overseas expansion compared to earlier plans.
ICANN says it has already received several offers from governments and non-governmental organizations around the world to provide offices, staffing and supplies for the new locations.
We’re being very careful not to accept money. It’s all payment-in-kind, Pritz said. The offices will not merely be embassies, or outreach offices, but operational offices comparable to the ones in Los Angeles and Brussels
While Pritz could not comment on deals yet to be finalized, South Africa has been touted as ICANN’s first foothold into Africa, which is increasing its interest in internet-related affairs as its own infrastructure is built out.
Pritz said the organization is considering two African offices, two in Asia-Pacific (ICANN CEO Paul Twomey’s native Australia seems a slam-dunk here) and two or three in Latin America, in addition to the two existing offices.
ICANN opened its first international office in Brussels almost a year ago, and last December said it would have facilities in all the regions of the world within six months. Twomey already spends a lot of his time working in Australia.
Pritz said that while budget was shifted away from financing these offices, ICANN will still have sufficient funds to keep up its multilingual efforts, which include translating its key documents and web sites.
International expansion is seen as increasingly important to the longevity of ICANN, which is seen by many in the world as too US-centric. Some nations want the International Telecommunications Union to take over ICANN’s powers.
But registrars, which provide most of ICANN’s financing, had asked that a greater portion of its latest budget which is twice the size of last year’s – be spent on enforcing compliance with the contracts that enable them to sell domain names.
Even the most respectable registrars and registries are a devious bunch, frequently exploiting contractual or technical loopholes or oversights to extract more revenue from the notoriously competitive and low-margin domain name business.
This often leads to conflicts that some turn to ICANN to resolve. While the organization is loath to call itself a regulator, its contracts do give it regulator-like powers over what kind of services domain firms can offer, all in the name of technical stability.