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Internet

Net group plays name game

In an attempt to resolve a simmering debate over Internet names, a national ad hoc committee calls for the creation of seven new top-level domains.

An international committee is calling for the creation of seven new international top-level domains to ease the name bottleneck on the Web, according to a report issued today.

The Internet International Ad Hoc Committee is also proposing that it add new registrars to compete with InterNIC, currently the only body that assigns names in the commercially desirable international domain name spaces, such as ".com" and ".net".

Businesses have complained that the names ending in the popular ".com" domain are running low and have been calling for an industrywide solution.

The IAHC was assembled by theInternet Society after another body, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), drew fire after proposing a similar plan. Critics charged that the IANA offered no process for resolving international trademark disputes, that its decisions were made with little public input, and that the U.S. body simply lacked the authority to administer domain names for the entire world, points the international committee have attempted to address with its new plan.

Although the Ad Hoc Committee has no official power as an Internet regulating body, it is trying to reach consensus on the topic, said Donald Heath, the committee chairman and president and CEO of the Internet Society.

Though many different bodies assign domain names, only the InterNIC issues names in the commercially desirable international top-level domains, including ".com" and ".net". The new proposal will establish qualifications, that if met, will allow anyone to become a new registering body for these new international top-level domains.

The proposal would limit the number of registrars, as they're dubbed, to 20 or 30 per year. Initially, all qualified candidates would be selected through a combination of a round-robin and lottery process to ensure that registrars were dispersed equally throughout the world.

The process should not only drop the price of registration but also address international concerns, Heath said.

The proposal also calls for a 60-day waiting period prior to when domain names may be authorized so that registrants have time to resolve legal disputes. If a user wanted to register a name instantly, he could be assigned a random name, much like departments of motor vehicles issue random license plates.

The committee also is recommending that an international trademark-related domain space be created to accommodate the international character of some trademarks.

The IAHC report also attempted to address charges that the previous plan lacked public input and accountability. "The Internet top level domain space is a public resource and is subject to the public trust," the report states. "Therefore any administration, use and/or evolution of the Internet TLD space is a public policy issue and should be carried out in an open and public manner in the interests and service of the public."

However, it didn't address how much registrars will have to pay in fees, how that money will be spent, and who will oversee the treasury. The IANA plan called for charging an intial $2,000 fee per registry plus 2 percent of receipts, a scheme critics said could easily net hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money.

The IAHC issued a draft of the proposal. It is calling for public review and comment through January 17. On January 31, the IAHC will publish its final document.

"The IAHC is interested in reaching a broad consensus and will make its findings available to many national and international organizations," Heath said.