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ICANN to get $8 million more from new .com deal

Verisign will pay ICANN roughly $8 million more per year in fees under its new .com registry agreement, CEO Jim Bidzos told financial analysts last night.

Under the new deal, approved by ICANN last month, the company pays ICANN a $0.25 fee for every .com registration-year, renewal or transfer, instead of the lump sums it paid previously.

That’s going to work out to about $25 million in 2013, Bidzos said on Verisign’s second-quarter earnings call last night, compared to about $17 million under the old arrangement.

The new agreement continues to give the company the right to increase its price by 7% a year in most years, of course, so it’s not all bad news for Verisign investors.

The deal is currently under review by the US Department of Commerce and Bidzos said he expects it to be approved before November 30, when the current contract expires.

ICANN gives Verisign’s .com contract the nod

ICANN’s board of directors has approved Verisign’s .com registry agreement for another six years.

In a closed meeting on Saturday, the results of which have just been published, the board decided against making any of the changes that had been suggested by the community.

There had been a small uproar over the fact that Verisign will retain the right to increase its .com registry fee by 7% in four out of the next seven years.

The new contract also rejiggers the fees Verisign pays ICANN to bring them more into line with other registry agreements. As a result, ICANN will net millions more in revenue.

Other parties had also asked for improved rights protection, such as a mandatory Uniform Rapid Suspension system, and for the current restrictions on single-character domain names to be lifted.

But the board decided that “no revisions to the proposed .COM renewal Registry Agreement are necessitated after taking into account the thoughtful and carefully considered comments received.”

The agreement will now be forward to the US government for approval. Unlike most registry contracts, the Department of Commerce has the right to review the .com deal.

The current contract expires November 30.

ICANN may renew Verisign’s .com deal this weekend

ICANN’s board of directors is set to vote on Verisign’s .com registry agreement at a meeting in Prague this Saturday.

The meeting is scheduled for June 23, the day before ICANN 44 officially kicks off. Read the agenda here.

The contract has been controversial because it will continue to allow Verisign to raise prices by 7% in four out of the six years of its duration.

Opportunistic intellectual property interests have also called for Verisign to be obliged to follow new rights protection mechanisms such as the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy.

But I’m not predicting any big changes from the draft version of the agreement that was published in March.

If and when the ICANN board approves the contract, it will be sent off to the US Department of Commerce for, I believe, another round of public comment and eventual ratification.

If Verisign is to run into any problems with renewal, it’s in Washington DC where it’s most likely to happen.

Verisign selected for 220 new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, April 26, 2012, Domain Registries

Verisign is the appointed back-end registry operator for 220 new generic top-level domain applications, according to the company.

Verisign itself has applied to ICANN for 14 new gTLDs, 12 of which are transliterations — ie, internationalized domain names — of .com and .net.

During its first-quarter 2012 earnings conference call, ongoing right now, CEO Jim Bidzos disclosed the numbers, saying:

VeriSign applied directly for 14 new gTLDs. Twelve of these 14 are transliterations of .com and .net. Also, applicants for approximately 220 new gTLDs selected Verisign to provide back-end registry services.

Many of these are dot-brands, Bidzos said.

Neustar, which also reported earnings yesterday, did not disclose how many applications it is involved in, other than to say that it has not applied for any as a front-end operator.

Timing of .com contract renewal is telling

Kevin Murphy, March 28, 2012, Domain Registries

The timing of the publication of the renegotiated .com registry contract may give Verisign and ICANN the chance to duck some criticism about its price-raising powers.

According to ICANN’s announcement last night, the draft contract is up for public comment until April 26, a week before we find out how much new gTLD business Verisign has won.

Verisign is expected to have secured a large share of the burgeoning market for new gTLD back-end registry services.

It is whispered that a great many North American brands planning to apply for their own dot-brand gTLDs prefer Verisign as their registry provider, due to its reputation for stability.

That up-time is of course provided by a robust, distributed infrastructure paid for over the years by the same .com registrants now facing four more years of price increases.

It’s debatable whether Verisign can continue to make a convincing public interest case for .com price hikes if it’s also profiting by hosting dot-brands on the same boxes and pipes.

But because the public comment period closes April 26 and ICANN does not plan to publish the new gTLD applications until May 2, the argument that Verisign is using .com buyers to subsidize its dot-brand business will have to be made without hard data to back it up.

I doubt such arguments would be heard anyway, frankly. ICANN pretty much has its hands bound by the 2006 contract when it comes to messing around with pricing controls.

For those opposed to price increases, a more effective lobbying strategy might head straight to Washington DC, where the Departments of Commerce and Justice will both study the deal from September.