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Postal Service gets reprieve over ".us"

Legislation that would prevent the U.S. Postal Service from taking over administration of the ".us" domain is postponed for a month, according to congressional staffers.

Legislation that would prevent the U.S. Postal Service from taking over frequently overlooked domain space has been postponed for a month, according to congressional staffers.

The proposal, which had been scheduled to go before the House Commerce Committee today, would prevent the Postal Service (USPS) from taking over administration of domain names ending in ".us." The National Telecommunications & Information Administration now oversees the ".us" top-level domain, but has taken steps to relinquish that role.

Specifically, last year, the NTIA published a request for comments on the future expansion and administration of the domain. About 11,000 names carry the ".us" extension, mostly belonging to libraries and public agencies that don't want a ".gov" ending, said a staff member from Rep. Christopher Cox's (R-California) office.

To the opposition of an array of groups, the USPS is among the organizations being considered to take over the name. Cox, a critic of that plan, today was scheduled to add an amendment to a funding bill for the NTIA that would have prevented it from turning over ".us" to the USPS. The appropriations bill was shelved for now, however.

Critics of the plan, which include the Association of Online Professionals and Americans for Tax Reform, among others, say the USPS is ill-equipped to administer the domain.

"We're really worried by the technical capabilities of the U.S. Postal Service," said Mikki Barry of the Domain Name Rights Coalition, another vocal opponent. "We're worried about that the Commerce Department is thinking about giving away '.us' at all."

Barry said the domain, which so far has escaped the commercial pressures placed on the ".com" domain, ought to remain that way.

A USPS spokesman said the agency has no plans to administer the domain, but said it nonetheless would oppose Cox's measure, which is expected to be heard in September when the NTIA appropriations bill resurfaces.

"Are we moving to take ['.us'] over? No," said USPS spokesman Norm Scherstrom. "Do we see a reason to single out the post office and proscribe activities? We don't see a need for that either."

With the advent of the Internet, the USPS has been searching for ways to remain relevant. The agency has experimented with a number of services, including electronic postmarks that would authenticate communications.