Tussle on Domain Names

Despite heavy pushback, ICANN plans to open window on top-level domain names

On Jan. 12, the Internet Corporation for Assigned
Names and Numbers (ICANN) plans to open the window
on new top-level domain names despite pushback
from top Democrats and Republicans, advertisers and
media companies, cable operators, nonprofits and
even some federal agencies.

They are all arguing that ICANN has not demonstrated
the pressing need to expand the number of
such domains from 22 to as many as 300—with that
startling increase being for just the first window alone.
The downside of that expansion, they argue, is the
millions of dollars it will cost to defend brands—like
Nickelodeon or CBS—from domain cybersquatters, and
the increased potential for scamming and fraud. ICANN
counters that it came up with the plan in consultation
with stakeholders and that there are built-in safeguards
meant to counter scamming and discourage squatters.
(See Editorial).

Over the past several weeks, House and Senate
Republicans and Democrats, joined by the chairman
of the Federal Trade Commission, have all suggested
that ICANN scale back its rollout or delay it altogether.
“Although we believe expanding the gTLDs is a worthy
goal that may lead to increased competition on the
Internet,” a bipartisan group of 16 House Energy &
Commerce Committee members wrote in a letter
to ICANN, “we are very concerned that there is a
significant uncertainty in this process for businesses,
nonprofit organizations and consumers.”

While the National Telecommunications & Information
Administration, the White House’s chief telecom policy
adviser, has backed the rollout, an NTIA source told B&C
that officials there are attuned to industry complaints,
stating, “The business community is an important
stakeholder in this process….We have been in conversations
with some companies about the introduction of
new gTLDs to better understand their concerns.”