ICANN still waiting on Network Solutions

Network Solutions hasn't yet signed an important contract with the nonprofit corporation now in charge of the Net's technical underpinnings.

Amid new domain name registrars and rules of conduct, Network Solutions has yet to sign an important contract with the nonprofit corporation now in charge of the Net's technical underpinnings.

In fact, the lack of an accreditation agreement between Network Solutions (NSI) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was a hot point of contention at the organization's public meeting in Berlin last week.

The Commerce Department and NSI is still sole registrar other international governments have anointed ICANN to administer the Net and to trigger competition in the domain name registration space, which Network Solutions has dominated since 1993 under a U.S. government contract.

And although ICANN made significant progress toward setting up this new system last week, so far it hasn't received a critical handshake from Network Solutions.

"Things are coming to a head," acknowledged ICANN interim chief executive Michael Roberts.

ICANN's accreditation guidelines have been signed by at least 12 registrars, which are scheduled to test NSI's shared registration system until late June. The test phase now is expected to go longer, however, because no companies have tapped in yet.

Based on the guidelines companies must prove, for example, that they have insurance to cover costs in the event their business fails and to demonstrate they can provide reliable service.

But more significantly, accredited registrars will have to comply with ICANN's anticipated policy regarding how to handle trademark disputes over domain names as well as other operational rules.

Under Amendment 11 of NSI's cooperative agreement with the U.S. government, the company hasn't missed any deadline. But NSI does have to sign up with ICANN so its retail registrar business can compete with the new registrars. Separately, NSI will act in a wholesale function because it runs the primary domain name root server.

For Network Solutions' part, it says it hasn't refused to sign an agreement with ICANN, but that it's working on it.

"Procedurally, according to Amendment 11, we're really not beholden to sign an agreement until after the test-bed period, and it's not clear when that is going to end," said Brian O'Shaughnessy, spokesman for NSI. "This is just part of a longer process we're involved in."

When Network Solutions actually signs on, it will give ICANN's authority more weight, a point not lost on the Commerce Department.

"My statement in Berlin was that Amendment 11 clearly contemplates that NSI will be an accredited registrar. It needs to happen," said Commerce spokeswoman Becky Burr, who is overseeing the agreement with ICANN.

"I'm confident we will get where we need to be, and that NSI will be a robust competitor in a good and competitive platform," she added.

News.com's Dan Goodin contributed to this report.

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