Internet-Address Assigner in Va. Is Focus of Justice
Department Antitrust Probe
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 6, 1997; Page A13
The Washington Post
The Justice Department has begun investigating whether
the process of assigning Internet addresses in the
United States, a process almost entirely controlled by
Herndon-based Network Solutions Inc., violates
Network Solutions said it received a request for
documents and information relating to its Internet
address registration business from the Justice
Department's antitrust division on June 27, according
to a document the company filed last week with the
Securities and Exchange Commission. The Justice
Department also is seeking information from Science
Applications International Corp., Network Solutions'
parent company, the document said. Network Solutions
is the only company in the world authorized to assign
some of the Internet's most widely used "domains," or
addresses, specifically those that end in ".com,"
".edu," ".net" and ".org." Critics have complained
that Network Solutions, which charges $100 to assign a
domain, has an unfair monopoly that has led to a high
registration price and poor service.
The Justice Department's request is a standard
preliminary step in antitrust investigations. But the
government has rarely looked into the governing
processes of the Internet, the global computer network
that has become a vital communication medium for
millions of businesses and individuals worldwide.
Registering a domain is a necessary step for any
person or business that wants a unique address, such
as disney.com or cocacola.com. The registered domains
serve as a sort of Zip code for the Internet, allowing
users to send electronic mail and locate pages on the
graphical World Wide Web.
Gabriel A. Battista, Network Solutions' chief
executive, said yesterday the company intends to
fulfill the request. "We've received the notification
and we will comply with whatever they ask for,"
Battista declined to comment further, citing the
"quiet period" the SEC requires of executives when
their company's stock is being offered to the public
for the first time. Network Solutions on Thursday
notified the SEC, in the same document that disclosed
the antitrust investigation, that it is planning a
stock offering worth as much as $35 million.
In the document, Network Solutions said it "cannot
predict whether a civil action will ultimately be
filed by the [Justice Department] or by private
litigants as a result of the [Justice Department]
investigation or, if filed, what such action would
entail." The document also states that "neither SAIC
nor [Network Solutions] is aware of the scope or
nature of the investigation."
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