Group asks senator to oppose Google, Amazon gTLD purchases

The large number of applications from the two companies would make the Internet 'privatized,' Consumer Watchdog says

A consumer group, citing concerns about the creation of a new, private Internet, has asked a senior U.S. senator to help block Google and Amazon.com from buying dozens of generic top-level domains (gTLDs) from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Consumer Watchdog, a frequent critic of Google, has asked Senator John "Jay" Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, to raise concerns at ICANN about the proposed gTLD purchases by the two Internet companies.

Google and Amazon have applied for 177 gTLDs between the two of them. "If these applications are granted, large parts of the Internet would be privatized," John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project director, wrote in a letter to Rockefeller. "It is one thing to own a domain associated with your brand, but it is a huge problem to take control of generic strings."

ICANN has solicited applications for new gTLDs this year, and groups submitted more than 1,900 applications. Google has applied for 101 gTLDs, including .eat, .buy, .book, and .web, while Amazon has applied for 76 domain strings, including .free, .game, and .shop.

A startup named Donuts applied for 307 gTLDs and plans to serve as a domain name registry.

ICANN's decision to open up new gTLDs was controversial, and Rockefeller was among lawmakers who raised questions. Many companies raised concerns that they would have to buy multiple domain strings to protect their brand names.

Representatives of Google and Amazon didn't respond to email requests for comments on Consumer Watchdog's letter.

An ICANN spokesman declined to comment on specific applications for new gTLDs. "However, it is important to note that after seven years of extensive input from our multistakeholder community, we designed the gTLD program to facilitate both public comment and objection to any application," spokesman Brad White said in an email.

ICANN has extended its public comment period on applications until Sept. 26, he added.

Google and Amazon are dominant players on the Internet, Simpson said. "Allowing them further control by buying generic domain strings would threaten the free and open Internet that consumers rely upon," he wrote in his letter to Rockefeller. "Consumer Watchdog urges you to do all that you can to thwart these outrageous effects and ensure that the Internet continues its vibrant growth while serving the interests of all of its users."

ICANN is currently looking for ways to process the large number of applications.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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