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ICANN, VeriSign OK Net Name Deal

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NEW YORK -- The oversight body for Internet names voted Monday to give VeriSign Inc. longer rights to manage ".com" addresses in exchange for turning ".org" over to another organization.

Vinton Cerf, chairman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, called the deal "a significant improvement over the original agreement negotiated in 1999."

Approval came in a conference call that was not open to the public. The vote was 12-3, with one abstention. "Under these new agreements, VeriSign will have enough confidence in the future that it can make the kinds of investments that we need to continue smooth and uninterrupted operations," said Roger Cochetti, VeriSign's senior vice president for policy. VeriSign promised to spend $200 million on research, development and related improvements, although ICANN lawyer Joe Sims acknowledged that the organization has no way to ensure that the company spends the money or wouldn't have spent it anyway.

The changes still need approval from the U.S. Commerce Department, which selected ICANN in 1998 to set policies on domain names. Although Commerce rarely overturns ICANN decisions, key members of Congress have urged the agency to evaluate the changes closely.

Some competitors and Internet users had termed the proposal a windfall for a large company and complained that it was negotiated in secret with little community input. VeriSign now runs the master databases for addresses ending in .com, .net and .org.

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