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Judge confirms its legality

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The Internet domain tax is once again being used for its intended purpose -- building a higher-speed network. Federal Judge Thomas Hogan had ruled in April that the tax was unconstitutional because the National Science Foundation had no authority to impose it, but he has now confirmed its legality after Congress retroactively approved the tax three weeks later. The purpose of the infrastructure tax is to make $23 million available for President Clinton's Next Generation Internet project for a faster net. There will be no refunds for registrants during the time that the tax was illegal. Network Solutions, the much-criticised NSF-appointed administrator of domain names in the US whose contract ends this month, had not been collecting the so-called infrastructure fee of $15/year since April. Some $56 million had accumulated before the collection was suspended. The American Internet Registrants Association had challenged the legality of the tax. AIRA is concerned at what it calls "the control of the Internet by a private clique of insiders" and is opposed to renewal fees ($150 a year) for each domain name registration. It also wants to see the process of Internet registration improved. Yesterday, William Bode, AIRA's lawyer, said AIRA will appeal the decision. Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium, said yesterday at the DCI eBusiness conference in Boston that he was "confident that the US government would not impose excessive legislative constraints on the Internet". ®

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