NSI and competition to RIPE and APNIC

who in ops cares? please keep the sicko domain name messes on other lists.
the infrastructure will run no matter what you call the interfaces.

I think ops people pay too little attention do the domain name mess
(and other higher-than level 3 messes). The mess is precisely due
to the fact that the development was allowed to be hijacked by a
band of idiots and demagogues.


But i think
the issue of domain service in US is entirely within scope of
interests of ISPs and other northern american network operators.
Users _do not_ care about OSI levels. Broken domain registration
_is_ an operational issue. And it is not the first time the activities
of network operators have legal repercussions.

My crystal ball says that in the end it will be ISPs who will be
cleaning up the domain mess. They're the only people out there
who have serious vested interests in keeping Internet running.

It is true that network operators, ISPs, sysops, all have paid far too
little attention to domain name issues. This failure to pay attention has
allowed some bad things to go too far.

All around you, it happens far too often: someone who is innocently using
a COM, NET, or ORG domain name receives a dreaded "30-day letter" saying
that NSI has conducted a proceeding (to which the domain name owner was not
invited) and has determined that the domain name will be cut off 30 days

This sort of cutoff causes harm to the unfortunate domain name owner, sure,
indeed has often put the domain name owner out of business. But the harm
goes far further. Webmasters' hard work finding links and putting them
into web sites end up with web sites having broken links. Individuals who
use those web sites to find things click on links and find they are broken.
Individuals who have set up bookmarks find that some bookmarks are broken.

The Internet in general, and the Web in particular, depend on stability of
domain names and stability of URLs, and this activity by NSI with respect
to domain name owners who are innocent of any legal infringement harms that

Try to imagine how you would feel if you were the recipient of one of these
30-day letters. You would suddenly find yourself facing the prospect of
having to hire a law firm (perhaps one of the sickos referred to above) and
having to spend large amounts of money, with NSI and its tens of millions
of dollars. You would find an NSI opposing you, and you might see (as I
did) a deposition where the domain name owner sent one lawyer (me) and NSI
sent *three* lawyers to the deposition. If you decide you can't afford to
fight in court, then you lose the domain name, pure and simple. If that
destroys your business, well, then, it destroys your business.

The lawyers, at least, have spoken up about this (perhaps again among the
sickos referred to above), even as the network operators, ISPs, and sysops
have nearly all been silent. The moral unfairness of NSI's actions, as
well as the legal wrongness of NSI's actions, have been written up by now
in law review articles and other places, by several lawyers. The
International Trademark Association, nearly all the members of which are
lawyers, has said that NSI's policy should be called a "failure" and should
be abandoned.

Up until now, NSI has been a contractor of the National Science Foundation
under a five-year contract. But NSI has said explicitly that when the NSF
contract runs out in 1998, it intends to keep running COM, but answering to
no one.

If it is tough to fight NSI now when it wrongly concludes that your domain
name should be cut off, imagine how tough it would be when NSI, with tens
of millions of dollars in the bank itching to be spent on lawyers, is
secure in its position of not answering to NSF or to anyone else.

The network operators, ISPs, and sysops have nearly all been silent about
what ought to happen in 1998 when the NSI-NSF contract expires. I have
seen nearly nothing in the Nanog list from Nanog members about this
critically important subject.

There is one, count them, one well-organized and viable effort that
represents the one possible future for domain names other than NSI's
answering-to-no-one future. It is the Internet Ad Hoc Committee effort.
Where have network operators, ISPs, and sysops been in the discussions and
comment periods for that effort? Largely silent. The IAHC proposal would
call for COM to be shared, just as 800 and 888 numbers are shared in North
America. There would be more than one company doing what NSI does now,
receiving annual fees and processing domain name assignment and update
requests, just as there is more than one long-distance telephone company.
There is a shared database (run by a trusted and neutral party) that is
used to keep track of which 800 and 888 numbers are available and which are
taken, and for the taken ones it indicates which long-distance carrier is
handling the number. There would be a shared database (run by a trusted
and neuteral party) that would be used to keep track of which COM domains
are taken and which are available, and for the taken ones would indicate
which registrar (NSI or someone else) is administering them.

If this "shared TLD" plan were to be adopted, it would mean that someone
who was dissatisfied with NSI for some reason could switch to a competing
registrar, just like you can switch from AT&T to Sprint if you want to
(without having to change your telephone number). Why might you be
dissatisfied with NSI? Maybe because you don't want NSI cutting off your
domain name on 30 days' notice for no valid reason. Or let's say you think
that $50 per year is unreasonably high for a service that actually costs
far, far less to provide. Or let's say you just prefer to see several
companies, rather than one company, just as you prefer to see several
long-distance companies rather than one monopoly provider of long-distance

Right now, some eighty organizations have signed the Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) that signifies support for the IAHC proposals.

Right now, a small handful other other persons and organizations have said
they don't like the IAHC proposals, the practical effect of which is to
increase the likelihood that NSI's proposal (the one where they are a
monopoly controller of COM, answering to no one) will be the one to prevail.

Right now, it's as simple as that. The IAHC proposal gets adopted, or the
NSI proposal gets adopted. There are no other viable proposals for the
organization of domain names after the expiration in 1998 of the NSF
contract. Yes, there are other proposals, but IAHC's and NSI's are the
viable ones.

So where are the network operators, ISPs, and sysops in all this?
Supporting the IAHC proposal? Supporting NSI's proposal? Expressing
disapproval of the IAHC proposal (which amounts to the same thing as
supporting NSI's proposal?) As far as I can see, none of the above.
Silent, or nearly so.

And the outcome of all this affects every Nanog member. It affects every
network operator, every ISP, every sysop. It affects the 1.2 million
owners of the 1.2 million domain names in COM and NET and ORG. Every
network operator, every SIP, every sysop, every domain name owner, should
pay attention to all of this and speak up.

If you don't mind your domain name being cut off with only 30 days' notice,
even though you weren't doing anything wrong, then hey, maybe it is
rational for you to sit there silently, saying nothing about how you think
the Internet should work after the NSF contract expires in 1998. But
otherwise, you should educate yourself, and speak up, so that the rest of
the Internet community knows what you think.