U.S. House of Representatives
House Committee on Commerce
Subcommittee on Telecommunications
Hearing on "Is ICANN's Next Generation of Internet
Domain name Selection Process Thwarting Competition?"
February 8, 2001
Testimony of Elana Broitman
Director, Policy and Public Affairs
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee,
Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today. I commend the Committee
for holding this hearing. Your role is important to continuing the stability
and innovative growth of the Internet.
I am here representing register.com, an equity partner in RegistryPro.
RegistryPro, as you know, is one of the new registries that was selected
by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to
operate a new global Top Level Domain (TLD)(1).
RegistryPro is a new company formed by register.com, one of the leading
registrars on the Internet today, and Virtual Internet Ltd, a top European
I am here to provide the perspective of a company that was awarded a
new TLD, .pro. Building on the restricted model of .gov, .edu, and .mil,
the .pro TLD focuses on professional registrants - such as doctors, lawyers,
and accountants. I can also offer the perspective of a registrar.
Based on our two years' experience, register.com believes consumers will
benefit significantly from the introduction of new TLDs.
To fully answer the question about the new TLDs, please allow me to briefly
review the structure and growth of the domain name market.
Securing a domain name, or Internet address, is the first and fundamental
step for businesses, individuals, and organizations that are building
a presence on the web. Before setting up a website or launching e-commerce,
a consumer contacts a registrar, such as register.com, to secure
a domain name, such as www.house.gov. Registrars maintain contact
with the consumer, invoice the customer, handle all customer services,
and act as the technical interface to the registry on behalf of the customer.
A registry, such as Verisign Global Registry Services for .com,
.net and .org, maintains the list of available domain names within its
TLD and allocates those names on a first come, first served basis. Registrars
get the domain names for the consumer by purchasing them from the registry
that manages that TLD.
As this Committee knows, the Internet, and the domain name market in
particular, has grown and expanded at a rapid pace. From 1993 to as recently
as two years ago, a single company, Network Solutions ("NSI"), today owned
by Verisign, was both the only registry and the sole registrar
for .com, .net, and .org TLDs. Presently, these TLDs are the only
globally available generic domain addresses.
In determining the best manner to introduce competition and oversee the
domain name system, the Department of Commerce called for the creation
of a not-for-profit corporation. ICANN was recognized to fill that role.
To introduce competition, ICANN has taken two major steps. First in April
1999, ICANN launched a test bed of five registrars. Register.com was the
first registrar to go "live" and register .com, .net, and .org names.
Although NSI remained the sole registry for the com, .net, and .org TLDs,
today there are over 140 accredited registrars. Consumers have benefited
from the competition in prices and services.
In November 2000, ICANN took the second step toward competition by approving
the introduction of seven new global TLDs to generate competition in the
registry business. RegistryPro was selected to manage the .pro TLD, which
is restricted to the professional business sector. Other new TLDs include
unrestricted, personal, and non-profit domain name sectors.
The domain name market has grown to about 29 million .com, .net, and
.org domain names, and growth has increased dramatically since the days
of the registrar monopoly, from 8-9 million in 1999, to more than 20 million
in 2000, the first full year of competition. This market is projected
to grow to over 140 million registrations over the next four years. This
growth is fundamental not only to the health and competitiveness of the
registrar business community, but the introduction of new TLDs will also
expand the opportunity for other Internet-related businesses
Competition among Registries
This Committee has endorsed competition in this sector, knowing that
it would deliver value to consumers. It has been proven right. Competition
among registrars has improved technology and customer support, introduced
price competition, and fostered innovative new products to better serve
the needs of domain name holders and Internet businesses.
Competition among registries will similarly deliver value. First, consumers
will have a choice among competitive TLDs and registries, leading to improved
services. For example, alternative registries may accelerate the launch
of websites and make them more secure. Second, consumers can register
for the web address of their choice, as the best addresses, in many cases,
are already taken in the .com, .net and .org TLDs. Third, consumers will
be able to distinguish their web address based on the TLD they chose -
we believe, for example, lawyers would prefer .law.pro and accountants,
Conversely, delay in launching new TLDs serves to protect the sole global
TLD registry and deny consumer choice.
Do not delay launch of new TLDs
While registry competition will not exist until these new TLDs are operational,
this will take months of preparation and significant resources. Substantial
technological facilities must be built, engineering protocols and software
applications written and tested, and highly skilled personnel located
and retained. In fact, substantial resources have already been spent and
committed - both during the application process and since then.
Not only is competition going to improve the registry sector, it is fundamental
to future innovation. New technology is on its way -if new registries
are not introduced rapidly, there will be only one company in a position
to operate the new technologies and determine the course of their evolution.
For example, Verisign launched the worldwide test beds with respect to
two recent developments - multilingual domain names, and eNUM, a convergence
of telephony and domain names. There were no other competitive registries
in place to create an alternative environment.
Moving expeditiously to add these new TLDs to the domain name system
RegistryPro's experience with the process
As for the process, we believe it achieved the fundamental goals of determining
whether an applicant had what it takes to run a successful TLD, and balancing
the interest in new TLDs with the imperative to preserve the stability
of the Internet.
While notice of its plans to authorize competitor registries has been
publicly available for about two years, ICANN posted a set of criteria
for assessing new TLD proposals on August 15, 2000:
1. The need to maintain the Internet's stability. ICANN analyzed:
a. the prospects for the continued and unimpaired operation of the TLD,
b. provisions to minimize unscheduled outages due to technical failures
or malicious activity of others,
c. provisions to ensure consistent compliance with technical requirements,
d. the effect of the new TLD on the operation of the DNS and the root-server
e. measures to promote rapid correction of potential technical difficulties,
f. the protection of domain name holders from the effects of registry
or registration system failure, and
g. provisions for orderly and reliable assignment of domain names during
the initial period of TLD operation.
1. The extent to which selection of the proposal would lead to an
effective "proof of concept" concerning the introduction of top-level
domains in the future. Proposals were to be examined for their ability
to promote effective evaluation of
a. the feasibility and utility of different types of new TLDs,
b. the effectiveness of different procedures for launching new TLDs,
c. different policies under which the TLDs can be administered in the
d. different operational models for the registry and registrar functions,
e. different business and economic models under which TLDs can be operated;
f. the market demand for different types of TLDs and DNS services; and
g. different institutional structures for the formulation of registration
and operation policies within the TLD.
1. The enhancement of competition for registration services. ICANN
noted that though the market will be the ultimate arbiter of competitive
merit, the proposals were to be evaluated with regard to whether they
enhanced the general goal of competition at both the registry and registrar
2. The enhancement of the utility of DNS. Under this factor,
TLDs were to be evaluated as to whether they added to the existing DNS
hierarchy without adding confusion. For example does the TLD's name suggest
its purpose, or in the case of a restricted
TLD, would the restriction assist users in remembering or locating domain
names within the TLD?
3. The extent to which the proposal would meet previously unmet needs.
Close examination was to be given to whether submitted proposals exhibit
a well-conceived plan, backed by sufficient resources, to meet presently
unmet needs of the Internet community.
4. The extent to which the proposal would enhance the diversity of
the DNS and of registration services generally.
5. The evaluation of delegation of policy-formulation functions for
special-purpose TLDs to appropriate organizations.
6. Appropriate protections of rights of others in connection with
the operation of the TLD. The types of protections that an application
was to address included:
a. a plan for allocation of names during the start-up phase of the TLD,
b. a reasonably accessible and efficient mechanism for resolving domain-name
c. intellectual property or other protections for third-party interests,
d. adequate provision for Whois service that balances personal privacy
and public access to information regarding domain-name registrations,
e. policies to discourage abusive registration practices.
RegistryPro met ICANN Requirements
We worked hard to meet these requirements. We prepared
a detailed description of innovative state-of-the-art technology, which
would enhance the usefulness and dependability of the .pro websites. The
RegistryPro technology would:
for near real time posting of websites (as opposed to today's 48-hour
the potential for system crashes,
consumers against potential registrar failures, and
better tools to protect against potential cyber squatters or professional
We proposed an innovative TLD that would add diversity to the current
domain name space and address the needs of the marketplace. Based on our
surveys of consumers and professionals, we determined that consumers were
looking for a trusted way to identify professionals on the Internet, and
professionals would be more inclined to register domain names if they
had a designated address.
In devising that trusted addressing system, we have reached out to professional
associations, to work out the mechanisms for verifying professional credentials.
We also outlined a set of policies to address the needs of various constituencies.
We balanced intellectual property protections, which earned us one of
the highest ratings by the intellectual property constituency, with personal
privacy concerns. We also guaranteed a level playing field for all accredited
We invested hundreds of thousands of dollars - including in market research,
legal drafting, and financial analysis - to prepare the application. The
build out and operation of a stable and secure registry requires a commitment
of millions more.
We believe that our application, like others, received
substantial scrutiny - by the independent panels of international experts
in technology, law and finance; by ICANN staff, by the public during several
public comment periods; and ultimately by significant independent deliberation
by the ICANN Board. There was an opportunity for applicants to clarify
their documents, on the public record. While no process is perfect, we
believe a genuine effort was made by ICANN to provide notice, transparency
and due process.
Ultimate Goal Accomplished
ICANN accomplished the ultimate goal of launching
new global TLDs while protecting the security of the Internet. These new
TLDs offer a variety of business models and domain name addresses - from
generic to non-profit. Incremental growth will protect stability and pave
the way for future development.
As the Chairman had noted in the last hearing on this
topic, ICANN is responsible for introducing competition into the registration
of domain names. We hope that the Committee's conclusion today is an endorsement
of an expeditious launch of these new TLDs, so that consumers can benefit
from the resulting innovation and the availability of new domain names.
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee - it has been
my pleasure to testify today. Thank you for the opportunity.
1 A TLD is the domain name address, such as .com, .net, and
.org. The new TLDs would be .pro, .info, .biz, .name, .aero, .museum,