Senate Panel Tells ICANN to Slow Down Over gTLD Plan

Rhett Pardon

WASHINGTON — ICANN should proceed slowly with a proposal to add new generic top-level domains, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee said.

“If ICANN is determined to move forward, it should do so slowly and cautiously,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller. “The potential for fraud, consumer confusion and cybersquatting is massive and argues for a phased-in implementation.”

ICANN will start taking applications Jan. 12 for new top-level domains with such possible brand  extensions as .coke and .costco. Applications will cost $185,000 for each domain.

On Thursday, senators on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee examined the merits and implications of the program and ICANN’s efforts to address concerns raised by the Internet community.

Rockefeller's sentiments over the gTLD rollout were echoed by Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

“You’re not even sure how many TLDs you will have at the end of the day when this opens, increasing the TLDS from 22 to maybe 1,000," Ayotte said. "That will be a huge challenge for law enforcement. We need to make sure we don’t rush into this.”

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

As it turns out, defensive registrations have become a large part of the business model for another TLD roll out — .XXX.

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

But ICANN denies the charges, saying that the gTLD naming policy took more than 10 years and included input from more than 85 countries and various organizations.

In separate news, ICANN has appointed Internet expert Dr. Xiaodong Lee of the Chinese Academy of Sciences as the group's vice president for Asia.

Rod Beckstrom, ICANN president and Chief CEO, called Lee's appointment "an important development for ICANN, for China and for all of Asia." Lee assumes his new position on Monday.

"Dr. Lee's appointment comes at a critical time in ICANN's history," said Beckstrom. Acknowledging nearly half of all internet users are in Asia, Beckstrom said, "This appointment sends a powerful signal that ICANN recognizes the importance of the new gTLD program to China's and Asia's online future."