The future stability of the Internet domain name system is being threatened by obstruction from incumbent registrar, Network Solutions (NSI), the US Congress was told last week.
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), the organisation set up to oversee switching the name system from US government control to a global, consensus driven system, was forced to defend its attempts to curb NSI's monopoly in a congressional hearing.
The House Commerce Committee held the hearing after a report was issued last month by Icann interim chairwoman Esther Dyson and interim president Michael Roberts.
The report said: "NSI has to date refused to accept the policy authority of Icann, although it continues to 'participate' in the creation of Icann institutions and policies. It has [also] funded and encouraged a variety of Icann critics."
In addition, legislators heard that Icann has exhausted its initial funding, raised through donations from networking companies and private donations, and has accumulated about $1 million (€967,295) in debt.
Icann had proposed charging a $1 (€0.96) fee per domain registration, but was forced to back down under pressure from Commerce Committee chairman Thomas Bliley.
Several IT professionals who have dealt with NSI also accused it of abusing its position. Phillip Jaenke, a systems administrator at a US ISP, commented: "I used to deal with [NSI] on a daily basis at an ISP that handled some 200 plus domains for customers. On a near weekly basis, one of those domains would be put on hold pending payment."
NSI, he claimed, it is forcing Icann into costly legal defences.
"NSI has challenged ICANN's authority over them, saying that they are above Icann and can refuse to allow Icann access to anything whatsoever," he said. "They're paying lawyers ungodly amounts of money to do this."
Willie Black, managing director of Nominet, which handles domain name registrations for the .co.uk domain, commented: "NSI is there to benefit shareholders; it is in its interest to preserve its monopoly. ICANN was given an agenda [by the US government] but not enough authority."
Black said this, compounded by NSI's tactics, has left Icann open to criticism.
"NSI has tremendous lobbying power; [politicians] are playing along with, and will be played along by, NSI," he said.
US "political infighting" was one reason why many international organisations involved in the domain dispute, "thought Icann shouldn't have been incorporated in the US," he said.
"Icann has to prove itself, show that it can be a benign monopoly and win over other governments," he said. "We are all suffering from the effects of US politics."
For more stories see this week's issue of PC Week UK
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