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Senators slate NTIA, to demand answers on new gTLD security

Kevin Murphy, July 23, 2013, 10:56:44 (UTC), Domain Policy

Did Verisign get to the US Congress? That’s the intriguing question emerging from a new Senate appropriations bill.

In notes attached to the bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee delivers a brief but scathing assessment of the National Telecommunication and Information Administration’s performance on ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee.

It says it believes the NTIA has “not been a strong advocate for U.S. companies and consumers”.

The notes would order the agency to appear before the committee within 30 days to defend the “security” aspects of new gTLDs and “urges greater participation and advocacy within the GAC”.

While the NTIA had a low-profile presence at the just-finished Durban meeting, it would be difficult to name many other governments that participate or advocate more on the GAC.

This raises an eyebrow. Which interests, in the eyes of the committee, is the NTIA not sufficiently defending?

Given the references to intellectual property, suspicions immediately fall on usual suspects such as the Association of National Advertisers, which is worried about cybersquatting and associated risks.

The ANA successfully lobbied for an ultimately fruitless Congressional hearing in late 2011, following its campaign of outrage against the new gTLD program.

It’s mellowed somewhat since, but still has fierce concerns. Judging by comments its representatives made in Durban last week, it has shifted its focus to different security issues and is now aligned with Verisign.

Verisign, particularly given the bill’s reference to “security, stability and resiliency” and the company’s campaign to raise questions about the potential security risks of new gTLDs, is also a suspect.

“Security, stability and resiliency” is standard ICANN language, with its own acronym (SSR), rolled out frequently during last week’s debates about Verisign’s security concerns. It’s unlikely to have come from anyone not intimately involved in the ICANN community.

And what of Amazon? The timing might not fit, but there’s been an outcry, shared by almost everyone in the ICANN community, about the GAC’s objection last week to the .amazon gTLD application.

The NTIA mysteriously acquiesced to the .amazon objection — arguably harming the interests of a major US corporation — largely it seems in order to play nice with other GAC members.

Here’s everything the notes to “Departments of Commerce and Justice, and Science, and related agencies appropriations Bill, 2014” (pdf) say about ICANN:

ICANN — NTIA represents the United States on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers [ICANN] Governmental Advisory Committee [GAC], and represents the interests of the Nation in protecting its companies, consumers, and intellectual property as the Internet becomes an increasingly important component of commerce. The GAC is structured to provide advice to the ICANN Board on the public policy aspects of the broad range of issues pending before ICANN, and NTIA must be an active supporter for the interests of the Nation. The Committee is concerned that the Department of Commerce, through NTIA, has not been a strong advocate for U.S. companies and consumers and urges greater participation and advocacy within the GAC and any other mechanisms within ICANN in which NTIA is a participant.

NTIA has a duty to ensure that decisions related to ICANN are made in the Nation’s interest, are accountable and transparent, and preserve the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet for consumers, business, and the U.S. Government. The Committee instructs the NTIA to assess and report to the Committee within 30 days on the adequacy of NTIA’s and ICANN’s compliance with the Affirmation of Commitments, and whether NTIA’s assessment of ICANN will have in place the necessary security elements to protect stakeholders as ICANN moves forward with expanding the number of top level Internet domain names available.

While the bill is just a bill at this stage, it seems to be a strong indication that anti-gTLD lobbyists are hard at work on Capitol Hill, and working on members of diverse committees.

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Comments (6)

  1. Avri Doria says:

    Interesting that it refers to implementation of the AOC which is, in many ways, what helped swing the ICANN pendulum in the GAC’s favor:

    AOC 9.1(b) assessing the role and effectiveness of the GAC and its interaction with the Board and making recommendations for improvement to ensure effective consideration by ICANN of GAC input on the public policy aspects of the technical coordination of the DNS;

  2. NotComTom says:

    Strickling will likely respond that the NTIA is, and has been acting in the best interest of the nation and that security and stability concerns are overblown and are being adequately addressed.

  3. Nice story, Kevin. The passage in the appropriations bill you mentioned can be inserted into a bill by a single senator and left there unread or ignored by the rest. It has no meaning at all as a legal matter, other than the meaning you ascribed to it: evidence of continued anti-ICANN lobbying.

  4. The NTIA have failed to protect American consumers from fraud, under 15 USC § 1125 – False designations of origin, false descriptions, and dilution forbidden.

    They’ve known of CentralNic; and their false designation ccTLD’s since before the creation of ICANN.

    NTIA are also aware that CentralNic have seduced WIPO into removing the governance of “.com” domain names, from the United States to Switzerland.

    How many Domain Name holder are you aware of that the NTIA lets be above, beyond and outside the US Government / Department of Commerce?

    VeriSign are equally complacent, currently and as prior owners of Network Solutions, as they knowingly accept the manipulation of the Whois.

    Cheers Graham.

    • John Berryhill says:

      No Graham, what a US court told you was that they were not going to enforce an alleged Canadian trademark against the holder of an alleged UK trademark, when neither of you established the conduct of any business in the US.

      Readers of fine legaltainment may enjoy the brief filed by Mr. Tim Hyland for Verisign in Schreiber v. Dunabin et al, EDVA 1:12-cv-00852, in response to Mr. Schreiber’s novel “MOTION for Investigation by FBI or ICE”:

      “VeriSign is unable to discern what Mr. Schreiber seeks through this motion.”

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