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Ethos clarifies .org price rises, promises to reveal number of censored domains

Kevin Murphy, April 9, 2020, 11:37:02 (UTC), Domain Registries

Public Interest Registry and would-be owner Ethos Capital have slightly revised the set of promises they hope to keep if ICANN approves the $1.13 billion acquisition.

Notably, in updating their proposed Public Interest Commitments (pdf), they’ve set out in plain dollar terms for the first time the maximum annual price PIR would charge for a .org domain over the coming seven years.

Applicable Maximum FeeTime Period
$9.93June 30, 2019 to June 29, 2020
$10.92June 30, 2020 to June 29, 2021
$12.02June 30, 2021 to June 29, 2022
$13.22June 30, 2022 to June 29, 2023
$14.54June 30, 2023 to June 29, 2024
$15.99June 30, 2024 to June 29, 2025
$17.59June 30, 2025 to June 29, 2026
$19.35June 30, 2026 to June 29, 2027

Previous versions of the PICs just included a formula and invited the reader to do the math(s).

The two companies are proposing to scrap price caps altogether after June 2027.

If ICANN rejects the deal, under its current contract PIR would be free to raise its prices willy-nilly from day one, though some believe it would be less likely to do so under its current ownership by the non-profit Internet Society.

The new PICs also include a nod to those who believe that PIR would become less sensitive to issues like free speech and censorship — perhaps because China may lean on Ethos’ shadowy billionaire backers. The document now states:

Registry Operator will produce and publish annually a report… This report will also include a transparency report setting forth the number of .ORG domain name registrations that have been suspended or terminated by Registry Operator during the preceding year under Registry Operator’s Anti-Abuse Policy or pursuant to court order.

A few other tweaks clarify the launch date and composition of its proposed Stewardship Council, a body made up of expert outsiders that would offer policy guidance and have a veto on issues such as changes to .org censorship and privacy policy.

The PICs now ban family members of people working for PIR from sitting on the council, and clarify that it would have to be up and running six months after the acquisition closes.

Because .org is not a gTLD applied for in 2012, the PICs do not appear to be open for public comment, but post-acquisition changes to the document would be.

ICANN currently plans to approve or deny the acquisition request by April 20, just 11 days from now.

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Comments (7)

  1. Jack says:

    Nobody want their 10% per year increase.
    Are they nuts ?
    $19.35 for a .ORG in 2026 and then the sky is the limit, why not $3,000 in 2028 ?
    Registrants are not here to pay for Ethos debt to acquire the registry.

    When you sugar-coat sh*t, it stays sh*t !
    Ethos is definitely not qualified to run the .ORG registry.

    • Mike says:

      Did they sell it to the mafia, shakedowns online?

      There are thousands of extensions, extortion of existing .orgs established

  2. John says:

    Take a step back for a second – what is the justification for doubling .Org fees over the next 7 years?
    Why such a dramatic increase in the price of .Org domains?

    Because domain names are inelastic – they are not substitutes for one another, and it is very difficult to switch from one domain name to another. Thus, consumers are locked-into their domain names and held hostage to paying whatever fees the monopolist decides to charge.

    There are more than 10 million existing .Org registrants – and PIR proudly claims it has a 78% renewal rate. This means over 8 million .Org registrants will be forced to pay higher prices – but there is no proper justification.

    Incredibly ironic ICANN has handed PIR the rights to operate .Org in perpetuity on a no-bid monopoly contract which will last for eternity – yet PIR put the back-end operations out for bid in 2016, which resulted in more than a 50% reduction in actual costs to operate the registry. More than 20 companies submitted bids to operate .Org for the next contract term.

    Look at the historical cost to operate .Org:
    Year Cost to operate the .ORG Registry
    2010 $27,672,049
    2011 $28,704,215
    2012 $29,081,068
    2013 $31,970,956
    2014 $33,173,705
    2015 $34,978,686
    2016 $37,978,497
    2017 $37,806,841
    2018 $18,066,321

    In 2018 – and going forward – the cost to operate .Org have significantly declined (2018 alone had a 50% reduction in actual costs) because PIR ran a competitive process. Why are these savings not being passed along to consumers????

    If cost are falling – what is the justification for increasing price?
    Why is ICANN allowing prices to go up for both .org and .com?
    Why are price increases not tied to operational costs or required investment into the infrastructure?

    How does increasing prices further ICANN’s mandate to promote competition?

    ICANN’s actions are 100% contrary to the policy requirement that the registry fee charged to accredited registrars be “as low as feasible consistent with the maintenance of good quality service”.

  3. John says:

    What happens after 7 years? Ethos will be able to raise the price of each domain to $85.00 USD or $100.00 USD?

    There must be a specific reason why Ethos has only committed to 7 years!

    I argue this is about the time Ethos may want to exit the business and sell the .Org registry to the highest bidder. Not having any price caps after 7 years – will put significantly more (billions?) into the hands of Ethos Capital.

    This whole mess is forcing .Org registrants to spend more money to maintain their existing domain registrations – it is anticompetitive and will directly harm consumers.

    If ICANN allows this to go through – it will be facilitating an enormous transfer of wealth – from 10+ million registrants throughout the world into the hands of one for-profit private equity firm – Ethos Capital.

    ICANN – step up to the plate and protect 10+ million worldwide registrants! Do the work you were originally entrusted to do.

    Or will you look the other way and allow a monopolist to increase prices without any justification?

    ICANN – are you captured entirely by the registry interest and will you continue to facilitate harm on consumers are large?

  4. Mark Thorpe says:

    Reject the .ORG deal ICANN and Goran Marby.
    Do the right thing for once!

  5. John says:

    Why are price caps only in place for 7 years and not the full term of the contract?

    This makes no sense!

Leave a Reply to John