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ICANN, Verisign and Competition

  • To: <settlement-comments@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: ICANN, Verisign and Competition
  • From: "Richard Henderson" <richardhenderson@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 29 Nov 2005 23:04:13 -0000

I thought one of the remits of ICANN, under the terms of its MoU with the DoC, 
was to promote competition:

"The President directed the Secretary of Commerce to privatize the management 
of the domain name system (DNS) in a manner that increases competition" This 
was to promote what the MoU also called: "the development of robust competition 
in the management of Internet names and addresses." The MoU continues: "This 
competition will lower costs, promote innovation, and enhance user choice and 
satisfaction."

How does it promote competition if you grant a permanent monopoly of a TLD to a 
single entity, and additionally allow it to unilaterally raise the cost of its 
product year-on-year by more than the rate of inflation? How does that "lower 
costs"?

Was the decision to grant these extraordinary rights based on strenuous 
encouragement of competition to see which bidders would offer the lowest and 
most competitive prices to the consumer? What was the case for not encouraging 
multiple parties to "bid" for the Registry rights, in order to bring prices 
down?

Was the decision based on full and "bottom up" discussion with all ICANN 
constituencies, to achieve 'consensus' and acceptance of the ICANN community as 
a whole that this process and decision were the right ones, the ones which 
would best open up the market, the ones which would best achieve competition 
and lower costs for consumers and other businesses? Were all parties and 
constituencies involved in the bottom up generation of this "deal" or was the 
deal a "top-down" fait accomplis, foisted upon people? Why are so many parties 
protesting? Where is the "consensus"? Is "bottom up" just a meaningless facade?

The MoU says ICANN "shall not apply standards, policies, procedures or 
practices inequitably or single out any particular party for disparate 
treatment unless justified by substantial and reasonable cause and will ensure 
sufficient appeal procedures for adversely affected members of the Internet 
community." Are all TLDs to be administered on the same basis of perpetual 
rights being given to each Registry? Was Verisign in any way "singled out" for 
special treatment, as part of a deal to avoid legal conflict, or for any other 
reason?

In what sense is this "deal" obviously and openly 'competitive'?

In what sense is this deal endorsed by the various ICANN constituencies that 
are supposed to play a full part in a "bottom up" development of policy? Quote 
from the ICANN fact sheet at: http://www.icann.org/general/fact-sheet.html 

"ICANN does not create or make Internet policy. Rather, policy is created 
through a bottom-up, transparent process involving all necessary constituencies 
and stakeholders in the Internet Community."

In what sense is this deal reasonable and acceptable and in the best interests 
of all parties, rather than just the best interests of Verisign?

Yrs,

Richard Henderson


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