MCI WorldCom and Cisco Systems are lending the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) a combined $650,000, the nonprofit company said today, adding that it expects to receive another $1.35 million in loans from other major companies in the near future. MCI's contribution is $500,000, and Cisco's is $150,000.
ICANN was named last year to help phase out Network Solutions' government-granted monopoly in the registration of domain names ending in ".com," ".net," and ".org" and to take control of other core functions. As first reported by CNET News.com, ICANN has been on the brink of bankruptcy since early summer.
ICANN's funding has been a major wrench thrown into the process of privatizing the Internet. Although the Commerce Department and governments of other countries have recognized ICANN to oversee the transition, they have not spelled out how ICANN should fund the job. Critics, led by Network Solutions, say that ICANN should elect a permanent board that is truly representative of the Internet before raising funds or tackling other tasks.
The nonprofit had to delay plans to charge registrars up to $1 per year for every domain name they assigned after critics said the fee went well beyond the limited mandate given to the organization's interim board. Meanwhile, ICANN's bills have been mounting and total more than $800,000, the group said recently.
That suspended funding plan will be revisited at a meeting scheduled for early November, where ICANN expects to receive the backing of the Internet community, according to the group's interim president, Mike Roberts.
"The only people who have complained about this are either in Northern Virginia or inside the Beltway, so I'm confident that by the first week of November, we'll have a community consensus about what should be done with the funding formula," Roberts said.
Roberts added that he has tentative agreements with "three or four" more companies to provide loans. In all, he added, ICANN expects to receive about $2 million that would have to be repaid within 12 months.
Network Solutions spokesman Brian O'Shaughnessy said donations from some of the Net's biggest players raised questions about whether ICANN could be truly representative of the Internet community as a whole.
"Ninety percent of all domain registrations on the Internet are small business," O'Shaughnessy said. "I'll leave it to the reasonable person to assume what this new cash infusion [from large, multinational corporations] means to small business."
Roberts declined to respond.