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NSI URL monopoly ended

ICANN to go ahead despite US government heel-dragging

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The monopoly on the sale of URLs has ended, despite the US government dragging its heels. The international overseer of Cyberspace, ICANN, has ordained five companies, including AOL, the Internet Council of Registrars, France Telecom and Melbourne IT to rival Network Solutions (NSI) -- until today the government's sole contractor in registering jewels in the treasure trove of top domain names ending .com, .org and .net. Under an agreement between the federal government and NSI, the scheme will start next Monday and conclude 24 June. It will then be opened to accredited registrars. The announcement follows a fraught few days. Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) proclaimed it was ready for the announcement, the US government was still wrangling with NSI yesterday afternoon, according to US newswires. The two were unable to agree over virtual pricing issues, with negotiations described as "intense". Joe Sims, outside counsel for ICANN and a partner with Jones Day Reavis & Pogue in Washington, DC, said ICANN would announce the five companies whether the talks were completed or not. Any delay to the agreement could postpone the companies gaining access to NSI's technical data, which requires a licensing agreement. "It's conceivable the date of competition could slip a few days past April 26," he said, but believed the start up would proceed as planned. Last year, the government handed over core Internet administration to ICANN. It will complete the transfer of the IP address space, assignment co-ordination and root-server management by September 2000. Around 50 companies have been registering addresses as NSI resellers and there are 150 country code registrars. ®

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