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Telcordia’s bitter history with key bidder

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The controversial report over ownership of the .net registry was fudged and the evidence is contained within the report itself.

The 58-page document by US tech company Telcordia has faced severe criticism since it was released last week. Now it has emerged the criterion on which Verisign was chosen was never specified by ICANN, which commissioned the report. Typographic errors in the section dealing with the unrequested criterion further undermine the report's authority.

Telcordia decided that existing .net owner VeriSign was most suited to running the registry for the next six years, although the difference between it and second-place bidder Sentan was "not statistically significant" and "minimal", it reported.

Instead, the number of "blue" rankings that VeriSign was awarded throughout the report led to Telcordia's recommendation that it keep control. The "blue" rating represented a bidder exceeding requirements on any of the previously decided judgement criteria. VeriSign came top with 14 blues, and Sentan second with 13 blues - 12 "high priority" and one "medium priority".

However, one of the criteria that VeriSign won a blue on that Sentan did not was not specified by ICANN and serves no practical function. The "Provision for Business Failure" seeks to evaluate the bidders on their ability to hand over the registry if it becomes a commercial failure. Aside from producing the bizarre situation that the bidder most adept at handing over control of the registry is rewarded its ownership, there is no mention of the criterion in the extensive 91-page report [pdf] produced by ICANN's GNSO committee that provided the foundation for the entire review. Yet it is this criterion that tips the balance in Verisign’s favour.

Further confusing matters, it appears that Telcordia has actually copy/pasted the same conclusion from the previous criterion. In both cases, the legend "Provision for Registry Failure" appears in the report, despite the clear separation of the two deciding factors, followed by all bidders but VeriSign receiving a "green" rating. VeriSign receives the vital "blue" rating, which results in it winning the contest for .net.

This puts yet another question mark over the accuracy and professionalism of the report. It is far from the only problem:

  • Bidder Denic has already accused the report of being "sloppy" and full of "serious factual errors".
  • The chairman of the GNSO committee that decided the report's criteria has called for an investigation into what he has called "a fundamental contradiction between the dot net evaluator's methodology and the GNSO dot net report"
  • Telcordia has still to release the list of people on the evaluation team in order to answer conflict of interest concerns (even ICANN remains unaware of who has effectively decided ownership of .net)
  • There is a large disparity throughout the report over the risk of having primary and backup servers in the same electricity region. Ultimately, VeriSign benefits to the level of one "blue" in the uneven approach - the difference between winning and losing the entire contract

With ICANN opening contract talks with VeriSign solely on the basis of the report, it is inevitable that the Internet overseeing organisation will be asked to halt such discussions until the report's failings are dealt with. A vote to that effect is expected on the first day of ICANN's Argentina meeting, Monday 3 April.

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