Network Solutions Dropped as Registrar Of Internet Domains
By David S. Hilzenrath
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 24 1997; Page E01
The Washington Post
The National Science Foundation said yesterday
it will not renew Network Solutions Inc.'s deal to register
Internet domains when the Herndon company's
agreement with the government expires next year.
But Network Solutions responded by saying it
does not plan to relinquish its exclusive hold on the
registration of ".com" domains and several
other established forms of Internet addresses.
The two announcements leave the future of one
of the Internet's central resources in confusion and
contention. Domain names serve as something of
a Zip-code system for the Internet, enabling users to
address electronic mail and locate pages on the
graphical World Wide Web. Corporations and
organizations pay to register their locations.
A coalition of organizations has been pushing
for competition in the registration of Internet domains,
including those ending in .com for commercial
users, the most popular form of Internet address. Critics have
argued that competition could promote better
service and lower prices.
As of Dec. 31, Network Solutions had collected
$42.6 million in fees from the enterprise, charging $100 to
register new addresses ending in .com, .org,
.gov, .net and .edu. It also charges annual renewal fees of $50
after two years. Seventy percent of the money
is revenue to Network Solutions, a subsidiary of
California-based federal government contractor
Science Applications International Corp., and the rest is set
aside for improvement of the Internet.
The NSF inspector general recently estimated
that registrations would generate annual fees of about $200
million by mid-1999.
National Science Foundation spokeswoman Beth
Gaston said it "has not been determined yet" whether the
registry Network Solutions operates belongs to
the company. The agency put Network Solutions in charge
of the registry in 1993, and it has grown to
include about 1.2 million domains.
Networks Solutions seemed more definite. "It is
not our intention to share .com or the others [domains] we
register," Network Solutions spokesman
Christopher Clough said. "Those would obviously [be] assets that
we've developed . . . much as Microsoft
wouldn't share DOS," its proprietary software.
Network Solutions favors competition, but only
in the registration of new types of domains, Clough said.
A coalition of groups led by the Internet
Society is trying to create a system in which competing registrars
could process the same types of domains,
including those controlled by Network Solutions.
"They've taken the low road and tried to
protect their monopoly instead of taking a leadership role in the
best interest of the Internet," said Donald
Heath, president of the Internet Society.
The National Science Foundation's inspector
general recently recommended that the federal government
maintain oversight of Internet addresses and
continue earmarking a portion of registration fees for
development of the Internet. But Joseph
Bordogna, the agency's acting deputy director, issued a statement
yesterday saying the commercialization of the
Internet leaves the NSF less reason to stay involved.
Bordogna said the NSF "has no plans to renew or
re-compete" the agreement with Network Solutions.
A group of federal agencies, including the NSF,
the Federal Communications Commission and the White
House's Office of Science and Technology
Policy, has been discussing what role the government should