InterNIC, the body responsible for distributing Internet addresses, deleted the domain name of a Web hosting company, escalating the industry debate raging round its role, writes Caroline Gabriel.
Although it claimed the deletion was a mistake - the result of a forged fax - the incident came only days after small Internet service providers complained InterNIC is deliberately preventing them having sufficient IP address space to run competitively.
These are just the latest turns in the controversy surrounding the monopoly that InterNIC's owner, Network Solutions (NSI), has over allocating domain names. This led to an antitrust investigation being launched against NSI last week and mounting protest from alternative domain registrars.
Web Communications, whose domain name was deleted, hosts 4,000 domains and 5,500 Web sites on behalf of customers. It said somebody had used an AOL account to email InterNIC requesting the (webcom.com) address be discontinued. Webcom complained that InterNIC, although it asked for the CEO's signature on company letterhead, did not telephone the company for confirmation. The Web hosting firm learned of the error when emails sent to its site were bounced back.
However, InterNIC representative Aggie Nteta claimed the company had not received a forged fax and the deletion was "just a processing error".
One organisation that has stepped up its campaign against the monopoly is Alter-NIC, which has set up an alternative registry using top-level domains (TLDs) like (.nic), (.sex) and (.xxx) instead of those controlled by InterNIC - (.com), (.net) and (.org).
AlterNIC founder Eugene Kashpureff has hacked into the domain name system (DNS) in which site addresses are registered, so that Web users can access his alternative TLDs. The problem with alternative registries like AlterNIC is that users have to reconfigure their name servers to recognise them.
Kashpureff redirected Inter-NIC's address (www.internic.net) so anyone accessing it landed on AlterNIC's site, where they were greeted with: "We are protesting the recent InterNIC claim to ownership of (.com), (.org) and (.net) which they were supposed to be running in the public trust."
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