ICANN, VeriSign Will Consider Changes on .net Agreement

ICANN and VeriSign will consider changes to the new .net registry agreement in response to a mass protest by major domain name registrars, who said the deal represented a "breach of trust" between ICANN and the registrar community. In response to a joint protest by more than 30 registrars at a Luxembourg meeting, ICANN chairman Vint Cerf announced today that VeriSign and ICANN will re-examine a provision in the agreement that lifts restrictions on the price VeriSign can charge registrars for each .net domain they sell.

"In light of the comments and the concerns from the community, VeriSign is willing to discuss reworking the fee cap provision," wrote Tim Ruiz of Go Daddy in an update to registrars. With the announcement, ICANN and VeriSign have committed to further discussions, with no guarantee of changes at this time. But the reopening of negotiations was seen as a step forward by registrars, who were concerned that changes in the fee structure in the .net agreement could set a precedent for the renewal of the .com registry, also maintained by VeriSign. But the registrars' primary grievance was that the lifting of the price cap was negotiated privately, and never mentioned in published drafts of the agreement.

"Registrars consider there to be a breach of trust by the ICANN Board and the ICANN staff in approving a contract with Verisign regarding .net that contains significant changes from the draft .net agreement posted on the ICANN website, without public consultation," said the statement, which was read by Bhavin Turakhia of Directi but backed by 33 registrars, including eNom, Go Daddy, Network Solutions, Tucows, Register.com , Melbourne IT, Dotster and Schlund (1&1 Internet) among others.

VeriSign and other registry operators maintain the central database of names for a top-level domain and manage transfers, while registrars sell the domains to the public. For each domain name the registry charges a baseline fee to the registrar, which can then set its own prices for sales to the public, which currently range from $4.95 to $34.99 per domain. ICANN has historically capped registry fees at either $6 or $4.25 per domain, depending on the top-level domain extension (TLD). The new contract reduces the current .net price cap from $6 to $4.25 through Dec. 31, 2006, but then lifts it altogether.