Senators Meet to Discuss ICANN’s TLD Plan

Lyla Katz

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Senate committee will take a closer look at ICANN’s controversial top-level domain expansion plan during a hearing set for Dec. 8.

Senators on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee plan to discuss ICANN’s plan to open the application process for new domains of their own creation, a plan that is facing mounting criticism in the U.S. and overseas.

The hearing is set to examine the merits and implications of this program and ICANN’s efforts to address concerns raised by the Internet community, according to a post on the committee’s website.

Various trade groups, such as the Association of National Advertisers, have opposed the domain plan, saying that the creation of hundreds of new generic TLDs will burden businesses, forcing them to buy defensive registrations.

The opposition views the gTLD program as harmful, allowing organizations and companies to apply for generic or branded top level domains. Critics also are concerned about the possibility of cybersquatting and related issues.

The Association of National Advertisers said that ICANN’s top-level domain program “diminishes the power of trademarks to serve as strong, accurate and reliable symbols of source and quality in the marketplace.”

ICANN denies the charges and said that the TLD naming policy took more than 10 years and included input from more than 85 countries and various organizations. ICANN also said the association did not voice its opposition at any time during that consultation period, the reported.

The opposition of the 100 plus brands and organizations in the Coalition for Responsible Domain Oversight or CRIDO will be presented by the Association of National Advertisers executive office.

Commenting on opposition from the marketing and advertising industry, CRIDO’s Kieren McCarthy writes that “the anti-gTLD campaign has some serious concerns which it will make sure the Senate Committee members are fully apprised of,” which include several unresolved issues such as terms of use compliance, applications for gTLD IDNs (creation of Internet extensions in languages other than English), trademark protection and registrar code of conduct.

McCarthy believes that ICANN’s plan may be postponed until the issues have been resolved or the number of applications will be limited in the first round.

ICANN is recruiting an "independent objector" to assess gTLD applications in a position that would commence in April.