House to address domain system's future

Details emerge about a House subcommittee hearing next week that could have strong consequences for the way domain names are registered in the future.

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Details are beginning to emerge about an upcoming House subcommittee hearing that could have strong consequences for the future registration of domain names.

The hearing, to be held July 22 before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, is tentatively titled "The domain name system: Is ICANN out of control?" ICANN refers to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which the Clinton administration appointed last year to take over administration of the Net and end Network Solutions' (NSI) monopoly on the registration of domain names ending in ".com," ".net," and ".org."

ICANN's critics complain that the organization has overstepped its mandate and holds secret meetings. In addition to NSI, Rep. Thomas Bliley (R-Virginia) also has taken on non-profit, criticizing it for charging $1 for every domain name registered. Bliley, who chairs the House Commerce Committee, is spearheading the upcoming hearing.

Tentatively, two panels will address the committee, according to sources. The first will be made up of representatives from NSI, ICANN, and the Commerce Department, which ultimately is responsible for administration of the Internet so far as the United States is concerned. A second panel will include ICANN critics. To date, NSI critics and registrars appointed to compete against NSI are not scheduled to be called as witnesses, the sources said.

Representatives from the subcommittee were not immediately available for comment.

The omission may come as a disappointment to a band of about 20 smaller registrars recently named by ICANN to participate in a shared registration system. As reported yesterday, the group has formed a group to lobby Congress on their complaints about NSI.

NSI and ICANN have been at loggerheads over the past few months as to whether the Herndon, Virginia, registrar must submit to the nonprofit's control of Internet governance issues. A weakening of ICANN would be a boost for NSI and the requirements it imposes on new competitors.