Three Internet domain name registrars are to file a complaint next week with European Commission anti-trust regulators over licensing agreements proposed by Network Solutions (NSI).
This is according to Amadeu Abril I Abril, adviser to one of the complaining parties, Barcelona based Nominalia. Continuing competition problems with NSI, which used to hold the monopoly over issuing top level domain names under a US government contract, emerged at a European Commission sponsored consultative meeting on Internet governance.
"The complaint refers to a licence agreement from NSI which we deem are unacceptable from the competition point of view. There are clauses that prevent us competing with NSI. There is insufficient separation of NSI as registry and registrar," the Nominalia adviser said.
"One thing that is basic is that domain names are portable. The user can change registrars. This is very difficult under the NSI proposal. Also there are some other issues related to barriers of entry, like a US $100,000 performance bond," he said.
"We are disappointed by their business approach. We want to make sure that anti-trust authorities here and in the US take a close look at that," he said.
He claimed AT&T, which is an accredited registrar in the US, has said it is unlikely to sign an agreement with NSI.
The three registrars filing the EU complaint are among 39 accredited registrars who want to handle top level domain name registration with NSI, such as for .org and .com, and after a testbed of registrars has proved the system for name allocation, he said.
Another industry source said the other complainants to the commission are the Council of Registrars, representing 60 other registrars, and Netnames, which is not a member of the council.
A commission competition official told the meeting that the commission has already launched an inquiry into the standard NSI agreement to assess its compatibility with EU anti-trust rules and has sent requests for information to a number of companies, including NSI.
The commission is cooperating with the US Department of Justice, which is also investigating NSI contracts, she said, noting that the commission hopes NSI will take its concerns into account but that the probe could lead to a formal statement of objections.
Another commission official said that he expected the commission to make a statement shortly on its investigation.
The commission began investigating last Autumn links between NSI and three Swedish Internet Service providers via NSI's European partner programmes. The ISPs said then the commission believed the programme was not open to all-comers.
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