ICANN revises VeriSign accord on .org, .net, .com

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) approved revisions to its agreement with domain registry VeriSign Inc., creating three different agreements, for the .com, .org and .net domains, respectively, ICANN announced Monday.

The revised agreements, which are subject to ratification by the U.S. Department of Justice, would separate each of the three top-level domains under VeriSign's control into individual terms. The .org agreement would expire on Dec. 31, 2002, at which time the registry would be turned over to an unspecified non-profit organization. The .net agreement would expire on Jan. 1, 2006, and the renewal would then be open to all interested parties. The .com agreement would expire on Nov. 10, 2007, and VeriSign would then have the right to opt for a 4 year renewal, if it satisfies the criteria set forth in the agreements, ICANN said in a statement.

VeriSign gained control over the three domains when it acquired Network Solutions Inc. (NSI) in a US$21 billion all-stock deal in March. Under the original agreement, VeriSign had been granted an automatic right to operate all three registries until 2007, provided it sold its registrar business by May 10, 2001.

As part of its half of the proposed deal, VeriSign will pay US$5 million to the non-profit selected to run the .org registry and commit to investing at least US$200 million in research and development and infrastructure spending. The company must also agree to other clauses, aimed at making the market more even. VeriSign must pay its fair share of ICANN expenses, it must agree to charge all ICANN-accredited registrars the same fees for registering names in all registries it operates.

Also in pricing, VeriSign must eliminate the one-time $10,000 fee it charges new registrars for initial access to its registries, it must eliminate or significantly reduce the fee resulting from the acquisition of a failing registrar by another registrar. Finally, VeriSign must also agree to an additional set of monetary sanctions for violations of some ICANN rules. VeriSign must also provide 90 days notice of new or significantly changed registry services, ICANN said in the statement.

"This is a very fair way to do things," Brian O'Shaughnessy, a spokesman for VeriSign said. "It esentially puts VeriSign on the same level playing field as all the new GTLDs (generic top-level domains)."

The proposed agreement does not require VeriSign to sell its registrar business as the original did, but requires that VeriSign not favor its affiliated registrar operations over those it is not affiliated with. It also must operate its registrar business in a separate subsidy.

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