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ICANN opens registrar reform up to public comment

No time like the present

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The time for reform at ICANN has come.

Long overdue changes to the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) are now open for public comment on the ICANN website, as the aftershocks of the RegisterFly failure continue to ripple through the organization entrusted with the technical stability of the internet we all know and love.

For those unfamiliar with the RegisterFly imbroglio, RegisterFly was an ICANN accredited domain registrar that collapsed precipitously due to internal disputes and related mismanagement. The sudden demise of a registrar caught ICANN flat-footed, and the non profit has been scrambling ever since to revamp the RAA to ensure a RegisterFly-scale clusterf**ck never happens again.

"I called for the review of RAA and the accreditation back in March, and I'm pleased to be moving into the active consultation phase," said Dr Paul Twomey, ICANN's CEO and president. "The need for this review is clear. The current RAA is more than six years old. We've seen the number of accredited registrars grow to more than 900. And we've seen the incredible difficulties that can be unleashed with the collapse of a Registrar."

So now is everyone's chance to throw their two cents' worth into the debate - you can send ICANN your ideas for reform via the email link here (at bottom of page).

ICANN has also noted a few proposed changes on its site.

  • Incorporating provisions to govern the terms under which a registrar can be sold and continue to retain its ICANN accreditation.
  • Including additional contract enforcement tools offering more options than the current one option – terminating accreditation.
  • Addressing the responsibilities of a parent owner/manager when one or more of a "family" of registrars fails to comply with ICANN requirements.
  • Requiring registrars to escrow contact information for customers who register domain names using Whois privacy and Whois proxy services.
  • Augmenting the responsibilities placed on registrars with regard to their relationships with resellers.
  • Requiring operator skills training and testing for all ICANN-accredited Registrars.

Those are all well and good, but here at El Reg we sincerely hope that ICANN also incorporates public auditing into the reforms. ICANN already audits registrars, and publishing the results of those audits would allow the users of the internet some way to gauge the relative quality of the services offered before buying. It also would cost cash-strapped ICANN nothing.

If the registrars don't like it, tough. It would provide the kind of information to consumers that would allow real market forces to shape the registrar community in ways ICANN has claimed to be a priority. There's no time like the present.®

Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office

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