Internet Community Interest Group Launched to Drive ICANN Transparency

 ‘Coalition for ICANN Transparency’ Seeks to Retain Governance

Checks and Balances, Targets Proposed .com Deal with VeriSign

Internet Community Interest Group Launched to Drive ICANN Transparency

 

Washington – Nov. 22, 2005 – Driven by broad objection to the recently proposed .com agreement between ICANN – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – and VeriSign, the Coalition for ICANN Transparency (CFIT) has been launched by a group of individuals, organizations and companies intent on bringing transparency back to the activities and operations of the internet governing body.

The deal, announced on Monday, October 24, as part of an attempt to settle litigation between ICANN and VeriSign, went far beyond the issues before the court. It renewed and extended VeriSign’s control of the .com registry two years before the expiration of the current contract and at rates that added $1.5 billion to the cost to consumers over its seven-year term. It also created a mechanism allowing VeriSign to annex already competitive markets as it reduced traditional oversight.

“All in all, a bad deal,” said John Berard, spokesperson for CFIT. “In a moment, ICANN went from a strong legal argument to agreeing to higher costs for domain name holders, and fixing those costs in perpetuity.”

The sweeping scope and surprise of the announcement was a wake-up call, Berard said. He noted that one of the founding principles of ICANN was a commitment to bottom-up, consensus-driven decision-making. “This deal shot that in its tracks,” he said.

Under terms of the agreement:

  • The proposed contact would set prices for a seven year period at a level $750 million higher than the current contract and $1.5 billion higher than a contract competitively bid. This “tax” will be borne by consumers
  • The .com registry is being given to VeriSign in perpetuity by including a presumptive renewal clause in the new contract.
  • The checks-and-balances engrained in the current contract are removed
  • Innovation and competition in the .com sphere are undermined by a liberal definition of new “registry services”

It was into this breach that CFIT arose. “We are not trying to set aside a settlement for ICANN, we are trying to set aside this settlement,” said Berard. CFIT proposes what is wrong with the deal can be fixed without stopping a deal. It proposes:

  • The agencies tasked under the 1999 Memorandum of Understanding with review of ICANN decisions, confirm and carry-out their intention to do so
  • ICANN set aside the proposed .com agreement and let the current .com contract run its term through November 2007
  • ICANN prepare to and then bid the .com contract so as to ensure the best prices for consumers and the most competitive market

“It’s essential that we protect and promote competition throughout the Internet community,” Berard continued. “We will present a united front on this issue at the Vancouver ICANN meeting and encourage comments from the community at large that can help with our cause.  Let’s keep .com competitive.”

Public comment can be submitted on CFIT’s Web site found at www.cfit.info.

About The Coalition for ICANN Transparency

The Coalition for ICANN Transparency Inc. – CFIT – is a not for profit Delaware corporation based in Washington, D.C. CFIT’s supporters include individuals, organizations, institutions and companies who are committed to the core principles on which ICANN, the internet governing body is founded. More information on CFIT is located at www.cfit.info.

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Legal

Legal

U.S. Actions

On November 28, 2005, CFIT filed an anti-trust action against VeriSign, Inc. and ICANN in the United States District Court Northern District of California San Jose Division. To see a copy of the complaint as filed, click here.

A request made of U.S. District Court for the Nothern District of California by CFIT on November 28, 2005 when it filed papers seeking a restraining order preventing the contract from being signed in the interim has been transformed by the court into a petition for preliminary injunction. A hearing date of February 10, 2006 has been set. To see a copy of the order, click here.

In those papers, ICANN confirmed that the settlement agreement would not be put to a vote during the ICANN Vancouver conference (though the Board might decide at its December 4 meeting to determine the timing of such a vote) and that no futher Board meetings were scheduled for this year. On the basis of ICANN’s representations, the imminent threat of signing the new deal appears to have been removed, allowing the judge to convert CFIT’s call into application for a preliminary injunction.

Here are the documents that were filed during the proceedings seeking to stop the signing of the settlement agreement in the short term:

EU Actions

On November 29, CFIT formally asked the European Commission to begin an investigation into anti-competitive behavior of VeriSign and ICANN. The focus of that investigation will be the pending .com proposal and the already signed .net registry agreement. The letter to European Commissioner Cecilio Madero Villarejo, who heads the Information Industries, Internet and Consumer Electronics unit, makes this key point:

“There is no doubt that the European Commission is the competition authority in Europe best placed to investigate this anti-competitive behaviour. Internet-related services are of concern to all European businesses and consumers, and any attempt to monopolize Internet-related services knows no national borders.”