Neustar, registry manager for the .biz and .us top-level domains, has put the wheels in motion to acquire an ICANN registrar accreditation as soon as possible.
It’s the first major gTLD operator to formally request permission to “vertically integrate” since ICANN announced last November that it was prepared to lift the ownership caps that have previously kept registries and registrars quite strictly separated.
Neustar’s .biz contract currently forbids it from owning more than 15% of an ICANN registrar.
In a letter to ICANN sent this afternoon, Neustar vice president of law and policy Jeff Neuman said the company wants this provision deleted:
We are asking for this language now to allow Neustar to compete fairly for new gTLDs on the same terms and conditions as registrars entering the new gTLD registry market.
It is critical to resolve this issue immediately to ensure that Neustar is able to compete on a level playing field with the new entrants into the marketplace and to promote the efficiencies and innovation for consumers as advocated by the ICANN Board.
ICANN shocked the industry last year when its board of directors decided to allow registries and registrars to own each other.
The decision meant that niche community and brand TLDs will be able to sell direct to registrants, without having to secure the support of reluctant big-name registrars.
It also meant that existing gTLD operators will be able to own registrars for the first time.
As a caveat, designed to protect consumers from gaming registries, ICANN proposed a Code of Conduct designed to limit the cross-pollination of data that could be abused.
Similarly, the Code calls for registries to treat all approved registrars equally, regardless of ownership stakes, to avoid competition concerns.
Neuman wrote that Neustar is prepared to have language along the lines of the current draft Code of Conduct, but “no more restrictive”, incorporated into the .biz registry contract.
Other incumbent gTLD registry operators, notably VeriSign and Afilias, are bound by similar contractual restrictions and will presumably also pursue their options along the same lines in future.