NeuStar Inc. to administer “.us” domain

By : |October 29, 2001 0



Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON: The US Department of Commerce said on Monday it had awarded
control of the “.us” Internet domain to NeuStar Inc., a private
company that intends to market the little-used online address to a wider
audience.

The move sets the stage for greater development of what has been until now an
online backwater reserved for local governments, schools and libraries. NeuStar
officials said they would reserve large parts of the domain for free use by such
groups, while seeking to attract others looking to plant an American flag in the
borderless world of cyberspace.

“For the first time, US residents, government bodies and public-service
organizations are able to establish an American identity on the Internet,”
said Jeff Ganek, chief executive and chairman.

Existing .us addresses should be running on NeuStar computers by the end of
the year, officials said, while new names should be available by the middle of
next year.

NeuStar, based in Washington, operates the central database of North American
telephone numbers. The company also has a hand in the new “.biz”
domain through NeuLevel Inc., a joint venture with Australian telecommunications
company Melbourne IT.

Country domains can be used differently
Unlike better-known domains such as “.com” and “.org,” which
fall under the control of the quasi-governmental Internet Corporation for
Assigned Names and Numbers, country codes such as France’s “.fr” and
Japan’s “.jp” are assigned to each country to manage as they please.

Some countries, like as the Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu, have opted to
market their domains to outsiders, while others, like Canada, reserve their
domains for the use of native citizens and companies.

The United States has opted until now for a decentralized, nonprofit system
based on locality. For example, the Web site for the Cape Elizabeth, Maine,
public school system can be found at www.cape.k12.me.us.

Under NeuStar’s control, the school could opt for more streamlined names such
as www.capeschools.us, or www.capeelizabeth.us.
At the same time, the wider US public could apply for .us names as well.

Neustar officials say they expect to sign up millions of new names like www.johndoe.us
and www.acmecorp.us.

While NeuStar will host existing names for free, the company will make $5
each year for each new address it signs up. Registration will be limited to US
residents and companies or other groups with a significant presence in the
United States.

Outside groups want input
The company won a contract to administer the domain for four years, with options
to extend the contract for an additional two years. The process has not been
without controversy. Democratic lawmakers and a

wide range of interest groups lodged protests this summer when the Commerce
Department announced that it intended to hand control of the domain to a private
business.

Several groups, from the American Library Association to AT&T Corp., to
the National League of Cities, formed a policy board with the hopes that the
contract winner would allow them to represent the interests of current .us
tenants.

While several applicants said they would work with the board, NeuStar was not
among them. Instead, the company intends to set up a policy board of its own,
made up of government, nonprofit, commercial and other interests. “We need
a community where there are multiple stakeholders, all of whom are on the
governance board,” Ganek said.

NeuStar also plans to operate a preregistration “sunrise” period,
to allow trademark holders to register their names before cybersquatters can
snap them up and resell them at a premium. Intended to minimize conflicts,
preregistration periods have created conflicts of their own, however. NeuLevel
is fighting a California lawsuit charging that its preregistration system
amounts to an illegal lottery, while the Afilias registry has seen the rollout
of its new “.info” domain marred by abuses and fraudulent
registrations.

NeuStar officials said they would verify all trademark claims before
approving them. Michael Palage, an intellectual property lawyer who has done
work for Afilias, said NeuStar’s task would be significantly easier because it
would only accept U.S. trademarks. Afilias accepted trademark claims from any
country in the world, with the result that as many as a quarter of its claims
could be invalid. It has said it will challenge certain registrations, he said.

(C) Reuters Limited.

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