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Congress May Legislate Domain Names - UPDATE

Date: Sun, 5 Oct 1997 17:29:24 -0400
by Rebecca Vesely
6:15pm 3.Oct.97.PDT

The House Science Committee is considering drafting legislation to prevent the registration of top-level Internet domains like .com outside the United States, but will take no action until the Commerce Department puts forth its roadmap for domain names, a panel spokesman said today.

"If the Commerce Department recommends going offshore, then the committee will draft legislation to prevent that," said Quentin Dickerson, spokesman for Representative Chip Pickering (R-Mississippi), chairman of the House Science subcommittee on Basic Research.

This congressional flag-waving is the result of two hearings in the past two weeks in which members of Pickering's panel became the first in Congress to formally address the issue.

A system for administering the millions of Internet addresses, launched by the International Ad Hoc Committee in Geneva last May, adds seven new top-level domains - such as .store and .web - and creates a global body to administer domains. The committee also suggested administering the new system under Swiss law, an idea that appalled Pickering and other panel members.

"American taxpayers, companies, and government built the Internet," Pickering said at the second domain-name hearing, earlier this week. "This is something uniquely American."

Currently, popular top-level domains like .com, .net, and .org are registered by Network Solutions Inc., (SOLD TO VeriSign) which has administered domain names for the past five years through a contract with the National,Science Foundation that ends next year. Although Network Solutions registers the most popular domain, there are 64 different registrars worldwide, and many countries are selling names under their national domains (such as Canada's .ca) to citizens and foreigners alike.

Don Heath, president of the Internet Society, a central player in the IAHC system, said the House panel is misinterpreting his plans and the entire domain-name registration process. "It shows a laughable misunderstanding of the Internet," Heath said.