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Comments on draft registrar accreditation guidelines
As an individual user and a commercial user of the Internet, I have grave
concerns about the draft accreditation guidelines released Feb.8th 1999.
These concerns go beyond a difference with any of the particular points in
the document and more to the fundamental assumptions that underlie those
points. This can best be illustrated by commenting on the principles listed
as the basis for the draft.
When the goal of the introduction of competition is compared to the
principles as listed, some contradictions become apparent. Principle number
5, referring to worldwide access and the development of alternative business
models supports the goal of competition, but the others do not to varying
Principle number one speaks to the relationship between registrars and the
registry, and in the special case of the com, net and org registry it might
be appropriate to put requirements in place that otherwise would not be
necessary. Giving the system a new start, with a level playing field, could
benefit all concerned. Outside of this special situation, I can think of no
reason why predetermining the relationship between a service provider and
its resellers promotes market competition.
Principles two, three, and four bear little resemblance to concepts that
serve the goals implied by a competitive marketplace.
The primary benefit of competition is choice, the opportunity to choose the
type of service, and to negotiate the conditions under which that service is
offered. If a handshake is good enough for me and the provider, and if the
agreement is legal in the applicable jurisdictions, what benefit is provided
by mandating a specific type of agreement? What common good is served? The
language in principle two sounds somewhat like consumer protection, but in a
situation where there really isn't yet a functioning market, how is it
possible to predict what is likely to produce abuse of customers and what is
not? At best it is guesswork, and unintended consequences are likely to
overwhelm any benefits.
As to principle three, the registration agreement should be legal in the
applicable jurisdictions. This is what protects the rights of the parties to
the agreement, and the legal systems of the world are what defines and
protects the rights of third parties. Legal systems vary according to
history and culture, and where there is necessity of and agreement on
harmonization of law, this is reflected in arrangements between governments.
ICANN is not a legislature or a court, and it has no mandate to behave as a
government. Especially one that attempts to define legal rights and apply
Privacy and the protection of data are important issues, but once again,
they are best served by having available a wide variety of choices that can
be selected to meet the individual situation and need. As a private
individual, I would prefer to deal with a service provider that holds
information about me in the strictest of confidence. As a business person,
using the Internet for business purposes, my desires are different. It is in
my interest to have information about my business as easily available and as
widely disseminated as possible. Other organizations, such as network
infrastructure operators, may wish to have detailed information only
available to their peers. Again, the best way to serve these diverse needs
is to allow a variety of approaches to develop, tailored to the needs
expressed by individual customers. Making blanket statements about what data
should and should not be required with domain registration serves everyone
Even though the guidelines start out by talking about introducing
competition into the domain name system, that track is quickly lost.
Competition is only desirable because of the benefits it brings. Competition
can stimulate innovation and efficiency, but most importantly, in a properly
functioning market it can increase the diversity and choice of services
available. Most of the text of the principles consists of restrictions on
the relationships between a service provider, its resellers, and its
customers. The result of intruding into the relationship between a provider
and a customer is exactly the opposite of what is expected from a healthy
market. It results in less choice, not more.
ICANN's role, first and foremost, is to preserve the cooperation and
coordination that has made the Internet so successful. In terms of the DNS,
this begins by protecting the integrity of the root server system. This is
what is most important to the protection of Internet wide stability.
Attempts to influence the system at levels other than the root run the risk
of being extremely counterproductive. The more constrained the system, the
more likely participants will be to move away from the center of
coordination in order to satisfy their diverse needs.
In these early stages of ICANNs development, it is vitally important that
ICANN identify those measures that are strictly necessary in accomplishing
its mission, and avoid the temptation of trying to address all of the
desires that are expressed to it. This should be the overriding operating