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Registerfly on the fly, ICANN on the run

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"In the past couple of weeks, over 70% of the non-jurisdictional contacts my Office has received have concerned registerfly… In most circumstances, the matter would be refered to Mr. Mike Zupke, ICANN's Registrar Manager, and he would in turn pass along consumer concerns to the registerfly contact… If, however, Mr. Zupke determined that the matter you are complaining about is unrelated to the Registrar’s Accreditation Agreement, or any other ICANN policy, he will likely encourage you to work out the situation with the registrar..." ICANN Ombudsman’s Blog, February 12, 2007

In light of the current fiasco involving ICANN sanctioned domain registrar Registerfly, readers may be forgiven for asking themselves - just what is ICANN responsible for, anyway?

Judging by the overwhelming attempts to contact Frank Fowlie, the ICANN Ombudsman, regarding the chaos surrounding registerfly.com, and the way he quickly washed his hands of the matter, not a whole lot.

Registerfly is an ICANN-approved provider of internet hosting and domain name registration services based in New Jersey that controls approximately two million domain names for 900,000 different owners. Unfortunately for those whose domains seemingly are disappearing into the ether by the day, the company appears to be coming apart at the seams, with no resolution or government action in sight.

An apparent power struggle between two partners in the company has left customers scrambling to recover domains that were not automatically renewed as agreed, or were paid for and for no apparent reason allowed to lapse well before the agreed upon expiration date.

And what of ICANN's decision to simply refer customers back to Registerfly, when the reason they are contacting ICANN in the first place is for a problem concerning domain registration that Registerfly either cannot or will not resolve on its own? If ICANN itself is either unable or unwilling to handle a problem of this magnitude, what is the point of having ICANN around?

After all, the most immediate concern of domain holders is holding on to their domains, or reclaiming their domains before they are lost forever – the rest can be sorted out later.

As ICANN's own website helpfully notes:

What is ICANN?

ICANN is a technical coordination body. Our primary objective is ensuring the stability of the Internet's system of assigned names and numbers. This objective is furthered by the requirement that every business desiring to become a registrar with direct access to ICANN-designated top-level domains must first become accredited for this purpose by ICANN.

Issues concerning proper domain registration would seem to be the very core of ICANN's mission, if ICANN's own site is to be believed.

The chaos surrounding the split between Kevin Medina, who now resides in a luxury condo in Miami Beach, and his former business partner, John Naruszewicz, has customers burning up two separate customer service lines – one in Jersey and the other in Miami – trying to figure out what is happening to their domains. If they can get through to customer service, they are told that the servers are down and that Registerfly’s own tech support cannot even access the back end of their own system. The problems are legion – enough so that an entire website, www.registerflies.com, has been set up to provide a forum for angry customers.

One irate Reg reader complained over the phone about trouble tickets being immediately bounced back as "completed", without any action being taken. The charade of disingenuous tech support and inaccessible "downed" servers has been going on since Monday, 12 February.

Now one of the largest registrars on the internet, Registerfly for years acted as a reseller for eNom.com, until splitting off on its own and receiving its own accreditation from ...ICANN. What amounts to "accreditation" at this point is anyone’s guess.

Problems initially started surfacing months ago, but eNom only terminated its reseller agreement with Registerfly last week, leading to massive confusion about just where the domains were actually registered – apparently over the course of the year during which Registerfly broke away from eNom, many customers were unknowingly still being registered with eNom through Registerfly.

With ICANN watching from the sidelines, customers can only hope that local or federal authorities will step in. Stay tuned. ®

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