Senate Commerce Committee to Icann: Slow Down

Members worry about new top-level domain plan

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers got a bit of a dressing down from members of the Senate Commerce Committee Thursday over Icann’s plan to roll out hundreds of new top-level domains (TLDs).

At the very least, committee members said, they'd like Icann to go slow until a number of potential law enforcement issues are addressed and the public becomes better informed of what might happen when and if hundreds of new TLDs hit the Internet.

“Congress may not be able to stop this, but there are some concerns with this process worth listening to,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Wash., told Icann senior vice president Kurt Pritz.

Beginning Jan. 12, Icann plans to take applications from companies and organizations to add TLDs like .bank, .hotels, or ones that include brand names, like .coke to the 22 that currently exist. 

With cyber security a flash point in Congress, committee members seized on the fact that security recommendations that law enforcement agencies like the FBI made to Icann are still being discussed by officials at Icann.

“These are very important issues, and it doesn’t make sense you have a Jan. 12 rollout. It is very challenging for law enforcement. You’re not even sure how many TLDs you will have at the end of the day when this opens, increasing the TLDs from 22 to maybe 1,000. That will be a huge challenge for law enforcement. We need to make sure we don’t rush into this,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

Ayotte’s comments echoed a statement made yesterday by the Federal Trade Commission’s Jon Leibowitz, who blasted the Icann plan as a potential disaster for consumers and business.

Members were also concerned about the potential cost of defensive registrations for businesses and nonprofits that lack deep pockets but want to prevent cybersquatters from tarnishing their image.

YMCA general counsel Angela Williams was at the hearing to testify on that point. “It will pose severe hardship and burden, increase the risk of fraud, cybersquatting, and trademark infringement. We cannot afford this expense to protect our name and goodwill,” she said. 

Ultimately, though, Congress has no power over Icann. And so far Icann has shown no indication that it will delay implementation of the new TLDs. “The board is concerned with launching this process in a very competent way,” Pritz said. “But I’m sure they were listening to the hearing.”