ICANN Board Approves Controversial Domain Name Service

The so-called wait listing service for back-ordering domain names gains an important OK, but litigation from two fronts keeps its future unclear.

While a controversial back-ordering service for Web addresses moved another step closer to becoming a reality over the weekend, pending lawsuits leave its future murky.

The board of directors for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers on Saturday approved the back-ordering service, called the wait listing service (WLS), during their Rome meeting. The unanimous board vote followed the end of negotiations between ICANN and VeriSign Inc., which had proposed the service about two years ago.

The WLS would allow those seeking a particular domain name to pay for the right to claim it in the event the current registration expires. It has spawned lawsuits and Congressional hearings questioning whether VeriSign, as the sole registry for the Internets top domains, .com and .net, should run such a service.

Even as the back-ordering service gains approval, its future remains uncertain. VeriSign last month sued ICANN challenging whether the non-profit corporation has the authority to regulate and restrict the types of services it can offer in the domain-name registry area. In the lawsuit filed earlier this month, VeriSign cites the WLS as one of a series of services that it says fall outside of ICANNs approval.

A VeriSign spokesman on Monday said that the company will continue to cooperate with ICANN concerning the WLS and looks "forward to a resolution."

"We may disagree about whether or not the WLS is a registry service and requires the 2 ½ year process it has gone through," VeriSign spokesman Tom Galvin said. "(But) we are always going to coordinate and cooperate with ICANN because its the appropriate thing to do."

ICANN officials say the oversight body will continue its work on the service despite the lawsuit.

"Were moving forward with business as usual on it, and the lawsuit is not affecting ICANNs process for the WLS," Jeffrey said.

Ironically, while VeriSigns lawsuit challenges ICANNs right to regulate it, a group of eight registrars are suing ICANN to block the WLS altogether. They allege that the service, in its current form, would harm consumers and threaten competition.

Derek Newman, the attorney representing the group of registrars, said on Monday that he planned to seek an injunction if the Commerce Department approves the service.

"We would expect (the Commerce Department) to rubber stamp it," said Newman, of Newman & Newman, Attorneys At Law, LLP, in Seattle. "As far as ICANN is concerned, the WLS is approved."

During ICANNs weeklong meetings in Rome last week, the VeriSign-proposed back-ordering service drew criticism during periods of public comment, according to registrars who attended. To Ric Chambers, managing principal of registrar R. Lee Chambers Co. LLC of Ooltewah, Tenn., a plaintiff in the ICANN lawsuit, the board seemed determined to approve the service regardless of the objections raised in Rome.

"It is hard to reconcile the level of disagreement on the WLS and a vote of the board," Chambers said in a statement. "It suggests that there was more going on here this week than was seen and heard in the public meetings."

In other action, ICANNs board voted to start developing a process for the opening up bidding for operation of the .net domain. VeriSigns registry contract for .net expires in June 2005. ICANN plans to develop a process by June 30 of this year.

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