Yes, I think most understood from the start we're talking about root TLDs
(top-level domains) and not root servers.
And particular concern is not that TLDs operators maybe entities with high
commercial interest in those TLDs - I have no problem with this for NEW
tlds (BIZ, INFO, etc) if from the start its undertood how they would be
operated and I can hae a choice to register domain there or not.
The problem is with .COM, .NET, .ORG (and in part with .US) - these are
original TLDs on which the net was built and the were setup by ARPANET/NSF
-> US DOC before existance of ICANN and intrusted to be operated by NSI
as one of core services of internet (like dns root server, etc). They were
from the start services operated as public trust or similar and when ICANN
was being setup - it was also setup as a kind of public trust non-commercial
organiation in charge of internet core services (please, don't start debates
here on how "non-commercial" and "public" they are).
The arrangement was then made that separated then commercialized and highly
profitable domain registrar business from core registry (only in charge
of keeping actual tld registry functioning as service to registrars).
Again you can see the idea of keeping core of services as separate public
trust here while providing enough opportunities to run profitable business
on top of it (remember $35/domain verisign been charging originally...)
NSI is specifically required by the agreements they made to run registry
services completely separate from registrar and this was the basis of
agreement that allowed them to continue to be both registrar and registry
for .com / .net / .org domains.
And when charges of $6 were decided on for registry operations for each
domain, NSI was specifically asked to calculate real cost of providing
core registry services, they were trying to get away from answering this
question even then but I do believe US DOC forced them to provide enough
data to be able to calculate that $6 will be more then enough to keep
registry business running. If this is not so now (which is seen by the
fact that now NSI is trying to find ways to make additional revenue out
of registry), then NSI would need to go to ICANN and DoC and show them
that operating registry is not profitable for them and then they can
negotiate new appropriate fee for such services or ICANN can invite other
companiesto bid on providing the same services on the costs ICANN find
acceptable or smaller and operated as public trust to the community.
I personally think the best way to do is for ICANN to itself to setup two
new non-commecial entities to operate .COM and .NET (.ORG is already with
PIR) and require these entities to provide annual reports to ICANN (and to
the public) on how much money is being spent on operations, etc. If they
have a positive revenue from the services, this should go to special reserve
(part of that used possibly for grants for internet research like NSF was
doing originally) and amount of fees charged adjusted to more closely
reflect the real cost of operations.
Of course I'm just dreaming here talking about this perfect world order,
etc... (especially considering we could not even get ICANN to provide
complete details of their financial activites...).
But in any case, the point is that just like .COM .NET were originally
operated as public trust (and yes, I have couple domains I registered
before I was being charged any fees for it and agreed to any commercial
agreements now introduced by NSI, etc) this should be continued now and
NSI should not be allowed to use their registry services for commercial
activites going beyond what is necessary to keep the TLD registry running.
Sorry about long letter...