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E-Commerce News: Portals & Search : "VeriSign's objective was to gain clarity and business certainty for Internet operators."


In this new agreement I see…

…certainty for Verisign and their shareholders. Five additional years as the operator of .com and the capability to increase pricing in an already fat agreement.

…I also see certainty for ICANN.  Certainty that these pesky lawsuits that Verisign has peppered them with for the past five years go away.

…and certainty for ICANN’s stakeholders. Hrmmm. Actually there’s not much of that. Well there is a little bit – certainty that Verisign will retain their iron grip on the .com and .net monopolies.

And there definitely isn’t any certainty for Internet operators – at least not other than Verisign. Verisign is the only registry that has these cherry terms in their contracts. At least for now – I suspect its only a matter of time before the rest of them are extended the same “certainty”. Which leads to other certainty – that prices will start to go up across the board for all domain names. And its also a certainty that Registrars will have to eat these increased costs. You see, before ICANN knuckled under to Verisign, they managed to create competition at the registrar level. This competition ensures that Registrars end up bearing the brunt of any fee increases that come down the pipe.

The other certainty is that this outcome won’t cost  ICANN or Verisign a nickle. John Berryhill sums it up best on the Registrar Constituency mailing list – “I wish I could settle my disputes by taking it out of other people's pockets...” [link]

Folks, I think we’ve been sold out.

Screw-tanFor those of you that haven’t had a chance to digest the proposed agreement, here are the greatest hits:

  • Verisign to provide public and private support of ICANN
  • Verisign will cede control of key root zone management functions to ICANN.
  • The .com management contract will be extended through 2012 (currently set to expire in 2007) 
  • Verisign can increase .com prices 7% per year starting in Jan. 2007 
  • The definition of registry services is the same as it is in the .net management agreement.
  • Both parties are required to submit to binding arbitration in the case of a dispute (no more litigation)
  • Verisign to pay ICANN a new $0.37/transaction fee. 
    • this fee can be passed to registrars. 
    • this fee becomes effective immediately. (pending signature) 
    • this fee will be increased $0.37 to $0.45 to $0.50 over two years. 
  • This new registry fee and existing registrar fees are payable.
    • it will total either
      • $0.37 (registry) + $0.15 (registrar) if registrars don't approve budget, collected by registry, payable to ICANN. 
      • or, $0.37 (registry) + $0.25 (registrar) if registrars do approve budget, collected by registry, payable to ICANN. 

The net result? ICANN staff appear to have made a massive policy shift away from competition towards entrenching monopolies. Presumably they believe that providing certainty to private sector operators is preferable to creating uncertainty in the form of enhanced competition. Under this new policy, we will not see the same level of competition in registry services that we currently enjoy under registrar competition. More importantly, in collusion with Verisign, ICANN will be taxing registrars more than $0.65 per transaction in less than two years time (they are starting us off easy with a simple $0.52 tax – already almost 100% more than what they are currently collecting.

The real kicker is that we’re not getting anything in the way of new services from ICANN in exchange for these massive levies. There’s a name for this type of contribution: tithing. At least where the church is involved, the contributions are voluntary and the contributors know full well that any benefits arising from their generosity are purely a matter of faith.

According to Paul Twomey, ICANN’s CEO, this all makes it possible to achieve “…a constructive and productive relationship that will benefit the global Internet community.

Did “benefit” suddenly become a synonym for “screw”?

 (Note: This article was originally posted on 10/25/2005, but because I’m a goof, I managed to delete it. I’ve recreated the article from my browser cache and believe this to be the same copy that was published originally.)

Now playing: "The Tide Is Turning" from the album "The Wall - Live In Berlin" by Waters, Roger.
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Spin: “…the settlement calls for the organization and VeriSign to sign a new contract "intended to balance innovation and business certainty with the need to ensure competition, security and stability in the domain name system."


No4_flathead_3_8brass screw

Take your pick.

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Dr. Jonathan B. Postel
August 3, 1943 - October 16, 1998

So much for my coincidence.

John Crain set me straight on this last night…he also mentioned that there is a tradition of not using the network on October 16th to commemorate John’s passing.

Very fitting.

We need to make sure we remember those that made all of this possible…  

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Scripting News: “On this day in 1998, Jon Postel died.”

Jon did a lot of good for the internet. For instance he was a central figure in the events that lead to the creation of ICANN.

Coincidentally, I’m sitting in a boardroom in Marina del Rey two blocks up the road from where Jon kept his office. With me are members of the ICANN board of directors – Njeri Rionge, Raimundo Beca, Mike Palage, Vint Cerf, ICANN staff – their CEO Paul Twomey, and Denise Michel, representatives from ICANN’s supporting organizations and advisory committee’s – Bret Fausett, Marilyn Cade, Sharil Tarmizi. We’re talking about the future of ICANN and what kind of a strategic plan we’ll need in order to get there.

Hopefully we’re in sync with where Jon would have wanted us to be.

Thanks for everything Jon.

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EFF: Breaking News: Secret Code in Color Printers Lets Government Track You

A research team led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently broke the code behind tiny tracking dots that some color laser printers secretly hide in every document.

The U.S. Secret Service admitted that the tracking information is part of a deal struck with selected color laser printer manufacturers, ostensibly to identify counterfeiters. However, the nature of the private information encoded in each document was not previously known.

Xerox previously admitted that it provided these tracking dots to the government, but indicated that only the Secret Service had the ability to read the code. The Secret Service maintains that it only uses the information for criminal counterfeit investigations. However, there are no laws to prevent the government from abusing this information.

"Underground democracy movements that produce political or religious pamphlets and flyers, like the Russian samizdat of the 1980s, will always need the anonymity of simple paper documents, but this technology makes it easier for governments to find dissenters," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. "Even worse, it shows how the government and private industry make backroom deals to weaken our privacy by compromising everyday equipment like printers. The logical next question is: what other deals have been or are being made to ensure that our technology rats on us?" 

Now playing: "Free Me" from the album "In Your Honor" by Foo Fighters.
Now playing: "The Happiest Days Of Our Lives" from the album "The Wall" by Pink Floyd.
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Reuters: “…the agency voted to treat the service, known as digital subscriber line (DSL) broadband, as an "information service" which shields it from many traditional telephone regulations, such as requirements to lease network access to competitors at regulated rates.”

This is a terrible ruling. The scope of this gives the incumbents the right not to sell circuits to anyone they don’t want to. Like DS3 to a webhosting company.

Time to dust off the t-shirts again.

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Earlier this week I noted that I was bamboozled by someone gaming the CIRA election process. My suspicions are that the technical aspects of the nomination process aren’t at fault – 2/3rds of my support really did disappear!

My theory is that a person or person controlling a large block of votes purposely inflated the amount of support for my nomination – which gave me a false indication of my status in the process – and then withdraw that false support minutes before the nomination process. This left me absolutely no time to solicit additional support for my nomination and shut me out of the process.

Something has to be done about this. Not only have I been unfairly prevented from participating in the election, but there’s a more sinister undercurrent that needs to be dealt with immediately.

Someone has figured out a way to effectively manipulate the CIRA election process. This makes it open season on CIRA’s democratic process, a fact that threatens CIRA legitimacy and its capability to operate the dotCA registry infrastructure in the interests of the Canadian internet public. There is nothing stopping a moderately financed bad actor from “appointing” their own people to the CIRA Board of Directors. My quick calculations indicate that the entire coup could be financed for less than $10,000, but maybe as high as $20k – it all really depends on how many votes are needed to get the critical mass necessary to push the results around.

I doubt that it will come to this – the effect is simply too obvious to expect that the current BoD (Disclaimer: I’m the current Secretary of the BoD) will sit around and do nothing while someone rigs the game like this.

I just hope that my appeal is well-heard. My work with CIRA was just getting underway – I was just hitting my stride. I think we all lose if this intentional gerrymandering puts me on the sidelines for a complete year.

And just in case I had any doubts regarding my future in this election, I just received this message from CIRA’s staff:

Thank you for participating in the CIRA Board of Directors Election. Unfortunately, you did not receive the required support from 50 CIRA Members to be listed on the final election ballot.

Ouch. I know this is just a formality, but its clear what happens if I can’t mount a convincing appeal.

Speaking of which, here’s the text of the message that I forwarded to CIRA’s Returning Officer earlier this afternoon, to which I received a prompt reply indicating that he will be looking into the matter. I’ll be sure to post more, as I know more.

May 25, 2005
Mr. Peter DeVita
CIRA Returning Officer
c/o CIRA
350 Sparks Street, Suite 1110
Ottawa, Ontario, K1R 7S8

Via Fax & Email

Dear Peter:

I am writing to you to convey my strong concerns about recent events that materially affect the CIRA election and call the entire nomination and election process into question.

As a member nominated candidate Board member seeking re-election in the 2005 CIRA Board of Directors election, I set about securing the support of 50 CIRA Members as per the requirements of the 2005 CIRA Directors Elections Rules immediately following the opening of the Nomination by Member Period on April 14th. By the afternoon of May 3rd, I had secured the support of the 50 members required to cross the threshold and eventually plateaued with the support of more than 75 members. Having attained the requisite level of support, I ceased my outreach efforts - although attaining additional support was clearly within my means.

Minutes before the close of the Nomination by Member Period on May 18th, at least two-thirds of this support was withdrawn, leaving me with only 30 shows of support - rendering me apparently ineligible to stand in the coming election.

Given that my candidacy has widespread support throughout the community and that the technical integrity of the CIRA election software system is not in question, I must surmise that I have been victimized by a coordinated and concerted attempt to rig the outcome of this election by excluding my legitimate participation.

CIRA's credibility lies with its representational structure. This includes the members' capability to democratically elect a sizable portion of the Board of Directors. It is important that CIRA's Director Election process be resistant to manipulation. CIRA has implemented several safeguards to avoid this.

CIRA's Corporate Bylaws repeatedly stress that voting privilege is bestowed only to specific persons, not on a per domain name basis. One member, one vote. Proxy voting, controlled block voting and similar practices that concentrate voting power are specifically ruled out by CIRA's Director Election Rules and CIRA's Corporate Bylaws.

Were this the case in practice, the unprecedented evaporation of my nomination support in the dying moments of the nomination process would be highly unlikely. Unfortunately, it appears that a single beneficial interest is controlling a large voting block and has gained the capability to manipulate the election process.

Left unattended, this event will communicate to the Canadian Internet public that CIRA's election process is inherently unfair and that CIRA's ability to best represent the interests of Canadian stakeholders has come into question. CIRA must ensure that its record of effective private sector management of this key public resource remains unimpeachable.

My formal request to you is simple;

a) I wish to have the withdrawal of member support from my candidacy thoroughly investigated. I firmly believe that the technical data will show that this en masse coordinated withdrawal of support is in fact the action of one or two individuals who have inappropriate control of the membership rights of a large group of registrants - against CIRA's interests.

b) If it is found that an illegitimate voting block is being wielded by a single person or person with the same beneficial interest, that the CIRA Board of Directors takes appropriate steps, up to and including, the permanent revocation of the membership rights of the involved parties, to prevent these individuals from perpetrating similar abuses in the future. Sections 3.1, 6.6, 6.15 and 6.19 of CIRA's Registrant Agreement v1.5 outlines CIRA's capability to cancel all registrations (and attendant membership rights) of Registrants who bring the Registry into disrepute, interfere with CIRA's operations or expose CIRA to prosecution or legal action - all very likely outcomes resulting from procedural capture of this nature.

c) If a unified voting block is found to have materially affected the outcome of this election process, that the currently running election process be immediately canceled and restarted per the 2005 Board Election Returning Officer Terms of Reference.

d) Finally, that the CIRA Board of Directors clarify the Rules and Bylaws brought into question as the result of these abuses to ensure that similar gaming does not occur again in future elections.

If it is impractical or inappropriate for CIRA to restart the election process, there is another option that I would like you to consider. I would like to be given a reasonable opportunity to demonstrate that my candidacy does indeed have the necessary support of the membership, irregularities notwithstanding. This may take the form of allowing me additional time to demonstrate that I am able to fulfill the nomination support requirements. Alternatively, CIRA could discount these irregularities and allow the membership to determine which directors should be elected by including my name on the Final List of Candidates for election. These are simple, practical approaches to the problem, but also suffer from the disadvantage of not dealing appropriately with the larger problem of the capture of this election.

Thank you in advance for your deliberate examination of this matter. The role CIRA has granted you provides you with considerable latitude in dealing with the issues that I raise. I have the utmost faith that the recommendations resulting from your investigation will be fair, judicious and comprehensive.

If you have further questions concerning this petition, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Ross Wm. Rader
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