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NSI, Commerce discuss domains

Network Solutions is meeting with government officials to resolve differences on issues including unannounced changes NSI made to its domain database and to the InterNIC site.

Network Solutions, the exclusive registrar for the most popular types of Internet addresses, is meeting with government officials to resolve differences on a number of issues, including unannounced changes NSI made recently to its database of domain names and to the InterNIC Web site.

Over the weekend, NSI fixed its WhoIs database to make it See Don Telage Newsmaker show when a domain name was originally registered. The Herndon, Virginia, company's removal of that data in January angered some firms, which said they needed the information to run their businesses. Restoring the information was among the topics officials at the Commerce Department were discussing with NSI.

NSI made the move in response to customers and trademark owners, a company spokesman said. "We're constantly evaluating what the proper construct of information available to customers should be," said Network Solutions spokesman Brian O'Shaughnessy.

Starting last month, NSI also began redirecting Web users trying to access the government-owned InterNIC site to NSI's home page. The move sparked criticism from companies hoping to compete with NSI when its exclusive contract with the Commerce Department expires. NSI took the actions without prior notice, prompting agency officials to investigate if they violated the agreement.

Over the past few weeks, both parties have been meeting regularly to discuss those changes and to map out the opening up of the registration system to competitors. Under a 1993 contract, NSI has exclusive authority to register domain names ending in ".com," ".org," and ".net." Those endings account for an estimated 75 percent of the world's Net addresses, and are responsible for the bulk of NSI's $93 million in revenues last year.

Both NSI and the Commerce Department declined to discuss specifics of the meetings, which are taking place on a daily basis. "We are more than happy to work with Commerce on a host of issues," said NSI spokeswoman Cheryl Regan. "We feel we have a good, healthy working relationship with them."

As first reported by CNET, NSI last month also purged tens of thousands of addresses from its database that are on hold. The move was designed to crack down on speculators who register potentially popular domain names in the hopes of reselling them. So-called cybersquatters would register the names but sell them before NSI required payment.

The Commerce Department has appointed the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to set up the new competition. The group next month hopes to begin a trial period during which five companies will begin registering domain names. Within a few months, ICANN plans to open registration of domain names to any company meeting accreditation guidelines.