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SellOut-bgInternet Pro Radio:Verisign has not alleged anything more than injury to its own business and therefore, does not have antitrust standing.”

So why is ICANN staff in such a rush to settle out? The fear has always been that a succesful anti-trust lawsuit would tear apart the fabric of ICANN. I would expect that if there’s no threat from anti-trust, then the big pressures go away Is the settlement being proposed simply to deal with the Sitefinder issue?

Is this the real issue that’s at stake? What are the real risks in the event that ICANN loses the case? I’m willing to bet that the community is willing to sign a blank check to help ICANN take this issue all the way to the end if it means that we don’t end up selling out everything that we’ve worked for in the last seven years.

Seriously, if all we need to do is create a litigation fund specific to this lawsuit, then lets do what we need to do to weigh the cost against the risk. The alternatives are far darker based on the discussions I’ve been privy to.

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Cheerleader2ICANNWatch: “What does it mean about internet governance when ICANN (whether viewed as a 'bottom up consensus driven' body, or a proxy for the US government) contractually binds a key member of one of the constituencies that are supposed to govern it so that this party has a duty to become ICANN's cheerleaders, and pays them off for this by allowing them to charge more in a what amounts to an ICANN-granted monopoly?”

Long time readers will know that I rarely, if ever, agree with much of what gets published over at ICANNWatch. This time though, all I can say is “What they said”.

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Contemporaneous with the ICANN Staff announcement to Associated Press on Monday, ICANN Staff held an invitation only briefing for registrars. The extent of the invitation is unknown, but it appears that only the top registrars were notified. I received a voicemail from Kurt Pritz followed up by a later email urging me to join the call on behalf of Tucows. I knew it was important – to the best of my recollection, staff have never extended a personal invitation like this in the past.

The subject of the call is now well known – a review of the proposed Verisign lawsuit settlement terms. The terms of the settlement, a basic affront to most of what I value about ICANN.

CuomoThings got rather heated on the call – the registrars present were not impressed at the prospect of $12 .com registrations, not impressed that Verisign’s commercial interests were being placed ahead of those of the community and not impressed that the settlement negotiations were happening as a backdrop to the recent .net negotiations.

ICANN Staff invited us to a followup call that was originally scheduled to happen later today. Those present have decided that we’d prefer to use the time to talk to one another instead and have declined their invitation.

Interestingly, it was only after staff were notified of the cancellation that they invited the broader registrar community to a briefing on the settlement. This process point is really the least of my concerns right now – but it is bothersome nonetheless.

To review, staff held a private briefing with a few registrars and made their announcement to the community via Associated Press. Despite representations made at the private briefing that the proposed terms would be available for review on the ICANN website within “20 minutes or so” from the end of the call, it was hours before they were actually posted (I grew tired of waiting for them and went to bed. When I awoke the next day, they had been posted to the website). To the best of my knowledge, nothing has been sent to the ICANN General Announcements mailing list and no notice of the posting has been made to ICANN’s GNSO Council – the elected committee of representatives from the gTLD community. And most recently, the staff have decided to hold an official briefing for the Registrar Constituency, one of the groups most affected by the proposed terms, only after they were rebuffed by their handpicked group.

Frankly, I’m feeling very stage-managed through this public comment process. We should update the mission statement in ICANN’s bylaws to include something about “Coordinate public perception on key issues to ensure an orderly close to a pre-determined conclusion.”

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

Hmm.

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."

Analysis:

No4_flathead_3_8brass screw

Take your pick.

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IN MEMORIAM

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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