The US government has not confirmed that it expects to keep Verisign’s .com registry fee capped at the current level until at least 2024, despite what DI reported on Monday.
At this URL we published an article reporting that the US government had confirmed that it was going to keep .com prices frozen at $7.85 for the next eight years.
That was based on a misreading of a letter from the Department of Commerce to Senator Ted Cruz and others, which merely explained how the price cap could be maintained without expressing a commitment to do so.
The letter actually said very little, and nothing of news value, so I thought it best to simply delete the original piece and replace it with this correction.
I regret the error.
Thanks to those readers who got in touch to point out the mistake.
The US government has told ICANN that it may extend the current IANA functions contract for a year, should something unexpected happen this month.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration wrote to ICANN (pdf) yesterday, to provide “preliminary notice” that it could extent the contract until September 30, 2017, if a “significant impediment” should occur before October 1, 2016.
It appears to be a formality. NTIA said:
the department intends to allow the IANA functions contract to expire as of October 1, 2016, barring any significant impediment. This notice preserves the Government’s rights under the contract during this interim period should there be a change in circumstance.
Under the contract, NTIA is allowed to extend the term for another year in the last 15 days of the current term, but it has to give 30 days notice to ICANN if it wants to do so.
NTIA assistant secretary Larry Strickling told ICANN (pdf) a couple weeks ago that it plans to allow the IANA contract to expire — thereby removing NTIA’s piddling influence in root zone management — October 1.
But the move is facing continued criticism from increasingly unhinged elements of the American political right, who have got it into their heads that the transition means Russia and China will be able to take over ICANN and crush free speech online.
The campaign has been spearheaded by Senator Ted Cruz and whoever pulls the strings of Wall Street Journal columnist L Gordon Crovitz, and has roped in a multitude of hard-right think-tanks.
The latest publicity push for the campaign saw Cruz yesterday launch a countdown clock on its Senate web page.
Cruz’s site states:
If that proposal goes through, countries like Russia, China, and Iran could be able to censor speech on the Internet, including here in the U.S. by blocking access to sites they don’t like.
None of that is true, needless to say.
But the anti-transition sentiment is strong enough that it’s not impossible that there will be a “significant impediment” to the transition before October 1 — a legal injunction against the Federal government, perhaps — and the extension will enable ICANN to run IANA under the current regime for another year.
US Republicans have endorsed hitherto fringe views on the IANA transition as official party policy.
Yesterday delegates at the Republican National Convention approved the party’s 2016 Platform of the party, which “declares the Party’s principles and policies”.
Internet policy takes up just half a page of the 66-page document, but it’s half a page straight out of the paranoid mind of former presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz.
It talks of the transition of the US government from its involvement in DNS root zone management (what the GOP calls “web names”) as an “abandonment” of internet freedoms to Russia, China and Iran, which are ready to “devour” them.
Here’s the relevant passage in (almost) full.
Protecting Internet Freedom
The survival of the internet as we know it is at risk. Its gravest peril originates in the White House, the current occupant of which has launched a campaign, both at home and internationally, to subjugate it to agents of government. The President… has unilaterally announced America’s abandonment of the international internet by surrendering U.S. control of the root zone of web names [sic] and addresses. He threw the internet to the wolves, and they — Russia, China, Iran, and others — are ready to devour it.
We salute the Congressional Republicans who have legislatively impeded his plans to turn over the Information Freedom Highway to regulators and tyrants. That fight must continue, for its outcome is in doubt. We will consistently support internet policies that allow people and private enterprise to thrive, without providing new and expanded government powers to tax and regulate so that the internet does not become the vehicle for a dramatic expansion of government power.
The internet’s independence is its power. It has unleashed innovation, enabled growth, and inspired freedom more rapidly and extensively than any other technological advance in human history. We will therefore resist any effort to shift control toward governance by international or other intergovernmental organizations. We will ensure that personal data receives full constitutional protection from government overreach. The only way to safeguard or improve these systems is through the private sector. The internet’s free market needs to be free and open to all ideas and competition without the government or service providers picking winners and losers.
Previously, such views had been expressed by just a handful of elected Republicans, notably Cruz, who has introduced a bill to block the IANA transition until Congress passes law specifically allowing it.
The irony in the latest GOP statement is that the transition is actually a transfer of power away from governments (specifically, the US government) into the private sector.
The current plan for a post-US ICANN, which was put together over two years by hundreds of participants mostly from the private sector, would see Governmental Advisory Committee advice carry less weight unless it receives full consensus.
In other words, if Iran, China and Russia want to destroy freedom of speech, they’ll have to persuade over 150 other governments to their cause.
Should that ever happen, a new multi-stakeholder (and in this example, government free) “Empowered Community” would have the power to put a stop to it.
The goal is to have the transition completed shortly after the current IANA contract between ICANN and the US Department of Commerce expires at the end of September.
That’s before the US presidential elections, of course, which take place in November.
ICANN and Verisign have agreed to extend their .com registry contract for another six years, but there are no big changes in store for .com owners.
Verisign will now get to run the gTLD until November 30, 2024.
The contract was not due to expire until 2018, but the two parties have agreed to renew it now in order to synchronize it with Verisign’s new contract to run the root zone.
Separately, ICANN and Verisign have signed a Root Zone Maintainer Agreement, which gives Verisign the responsibility to make updates to the DNS root zone when told to do so by ICANN’s IANA department.
That’s part of the IANA transition process, which will (assuming it isn’t scuppered by US Republicans) see the US government’s role in root zone maintenance disappear later this year.
Cunningly, Verisign’s operation of the root zone is technically intermingled with its .com infrastructure, using many of the same security and redundancy features, which makes the two difficult to untangle.
There are no other substantial changes to the .com agreement.
Verisign has not agreed to take on any of the rules that applies to new gTLDs, for example.
It also means wholesale .com prices will be frozen at $7.85 for the foreseeable future.
The deal only gives Verisign the right to raise prices if it can come up with a plausible security/stability reason, which for one of the most profitable tech companies in the world seems highly unlikely.
Pricing is also regulated by Verisign’s side deal (pdf) with the US Department of Commerce, which requires government approval for any price increases until such time as .com no longer has dominant “market power”.
The .com extension is now open for public comment.
Predictably, it’s already attracted a couple of comments saying that the contract should instead be put out to tender, so a rival registry can run the show for cheaper.
That’s never, ever, ever, ever going to happen.
The US National Telecommunications and Information Administration has formally thrown its weight behind the community-led proposal that would remove the US government, itself in effect, from DNS root oversight.
Assistant secretary Larry Strickling held a press conference this afternoon to confirm the hardly surprising development, but dodged questions about a Republican move to scupper the plan in Congress.
The IANA transition plan, which was developed by the ICANN community over about two years, meets all the criteria NTIA had set out in its surprise 2014 announcement, Strickling confirmed.
Namely, NTIA said in a press release that the the plan would:
- Support and enhance the multistakeholder model;
- Maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS;
- Meet the needs and expectations of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and
- Maintain the openness of the Internet.
Probably more importantly, NTIA agrees with everyone else that the plan does not replace NTIA’s role with more government meddling.
US Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Sean Duffy see things differently. They yesterday introduced the Protecting Internet Freedom Act, which would stop the transition going ahead.
Strickling said that NTIA has been talking to Congress members about the transition, but declined to “speculate” about the new bill’s likelihood of success.
“We’ve been up on the Hill doing briefings and will continue to do so with any member that wants to talk to us,” he said.
Currently, NTIA is forbidden by law from spending any money on the transition, but that prohibition expires (unless it is renewed) at the end of the current federal budget cycle.
The plan is to carry out the transition after that, Strickling said.
The current IANA contract expires September 30. It may be extended, depending on how quickly ICANN and Verisign proceed on their implementation tasks.