House Hearing to Icann: What’s the ‘Dot’ Rush?

Icann refuses to slow down or change TLD plan

The corporation that is set to unleash hundreds of new top-level domains on the Internet was on the congressional hot seat for the second time in a week. And for the second time, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers heard the same message from Dems and GOP alike: What’s the dot rush?

Just about every member on the Subcommittee on Communications & Technology used the same phrase about Icann’s plan to add top-level domains (TLDs) such as dot bank and dot hotels, or dot your-brand-here. "I don't think it's ready for prime time," said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the subcommittee.

The hearing was a victory for advertisers, which have been lobbying hard against the plan because it would cost millions to brand owners (about $2 million on average per company), create confusion among consumers, and increase Internet fraud.

“This is one of the most important issues facing the brand community throughout the world. Our members have hundreds, even thousands of brands. It’s an extraordinary cost,” said Dan Jaffe, evp of the Association of National Advertisers, who testified on behalf of the Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight, which recently added Visa and Xerox to its ranks for a total of 160 top advertisers and organizations.

The TLD plan, which begins accepting applications for TLDs next month, was many years in the making, but House members were skeptical that Icann had broad consensus when it approved the plan last summer.

Many of the concerns expressed by the subcommittee were an echo of a similar hearing last week before the Senate Commerce Committee.

“You’ve been at this for six years, but it seems to me that during this time, there was the opportunity to work out the differences and the legitimate concerns we are hearing today. It’s Icann, but it’s turning into ‘I can’t,’” said ranking member Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.

Despite scolding from subcommittee members on both sides of the aisle, Icann isn’t budging in its position that it's time to move forward with its plan.

“This process has not been rushed,” said Kurt Pritz, svp of Icann. “Every issue has been discussed. No new issues have been raised. The people at this table participated in this debate. I’m not deterred at all from the conclusion that this will lead to great innovation in the Internet.”

But members weren’t buying Pritz’s answers. “You seem to believe this has to go forward because you’ve talked about it for six years and that should be enough. If Icann can’t delay, would you consider a pilot project? Once it takes off, I don’t know how we’ll deal with this,” said Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif.

The subcommittee intends to keep pushing Icann to reconsider. “The more we do our role, the more Icann may take a second look at it,” said Walden. “Based on what I heard today, they should delay.”

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