ICANN prez welcomes new era of internet

Paul Twomey discusses ground-breaking VeriSign deal

VeriSign did pull the service but sued ICANN in February 2004. ICANN countersued. All those lawsuits were dropped yesterday, VeriSign agreed to hand control of the root zone file over to ICANN, and was rewarded with an extra five years' control of the dotcom registry.

The deal was also inevitable, according to Twomey. "It is the inevitable process that takes place in any market. Look at telecoms - the incumbent is always fighting every change, always fighting against the forces trying to deregulate. At some stage the incumbent says 'we ought to accept this new regime and find ways to work with it'. And we're at that same stage now."

Twomey rejects any suggestion that the extension of the dotnet contract was part of that deal. "There is absolutely no tie betwen this and dotnet - absolutely none. We kept the process completely isolated. And we made it very clear in any discussions with VeriSign that there was no way the two could be tied. The dotnet process was completely independent."

As for the extension to dotcom, Twomey points out that the contract was due to expire in 2007 and that VeriSign had an automatic presumptive right to continue its ownership. "Essentially all we did was pull forward the negotiation process by about six months," he said.

The new dotcom contract extends until 2012 and also provides a presumptive right over continued ownership so long as VeriSign doesn't breach contract conditions. The contract is out for public comment. Twomey points out the presumptive clause appears in a number of other top-level-domain contracts including .mobi, .travel and .jobs and that there has been "no reaction from the community" about the clause.

Under the new agreement, disputes will be dealt with either by a relevant country's public authority in the case of competition, or by a new international technical body in the case of technical problems. The new chair of this body will be agreed between bodies and will choose 20 international experts who will be held on a retainer for fast dispute resolution. Twomey says this will enable a new registry service to be evaluated in just 90 days.

WSIS again

He is also keen to point out that the process itself stresses some of the points ICANN has been making to world governments while they discuss the future governance of the Internet. "Here is another instance where we've been able to work through an outcome and get a solution applicable throughout the world. It was not a mistake or disaster that we were in court. We were able to use ways of resolving private contracts to get this good outcome in a relatively short period of time."

If this same process had been run through an inter-governmental body, Twomey argued: "A: How do you do it time-wise? It would be impossible. And B: How do you get leverage over one particular company?"

Which inevitably leads to the question of the WSIS process and arguments surrounding the future of internet governance. "In some respects, we have to sit there and watch that [process]," Twomey said. "We are recognising this as a discussion between governments."

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