VeriSign Retaining Stewardship of .net

ICANN releases the ranking of the five bidders vying for registry control of
the third-largest domain space on the Internet. By Jim Wagner and Michael

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) released its recommended list of the top-rated organizations to take over management of the .net domain extension.

VeriSign, the current registry operator for the third-largest domain extension, is in line to keep its job for another six years.

Mountain View, Calif.-based VeriSign was expected to hand over the reins of control after its existing contract with ICANN ends June 30, but ended up being the top vote getter out of a field of five other companies.

The bids were ranked in the following order: VeriSign, Sentan, Afilias, Denic and CORE++.

VeriSign will now enter two weeks of negotiations with ICANN staffers to hammer out a registry operator agreement for their next term. In a few day’s time, the negotiating team from VeriSign will meet with ICANN officials to discuss any changes they want made to the draft registry agreement.

If for some reason the two sides can not come to terms in the time allotted, ICANN will begin negotiations with the second-highest bidder, Sentan. A report will also be sent to ICANN’s board of directors detailing the contended points, as well as comments from the bidder in response.

The five competing bids were evaluated by Telcordia, a somewhat controversial group to be selected as independent evaluators. The company has past and existing business connections with two of the five bidders, VeriSign and NeuStar, owner of one of the bidders.

Telcordia spent the past two months interviewing, scoring and evaluating the five bids under consideration. The organization’s preliminary report, with their notes on each bid’s relative strengths and weaknesses, was completed earlier this month and given to each bidder following a site visit. Each applicant was given time to respond to the evaluators’ report.

“The evaluators find that all the vendors have the capabilities to run the .NET registry,” the Telcordia report said, but noted that the “distinguishing characteristics are largely difference in experience, risk and price”.

Throughout the process, scores of Red, Yellow, Green or Blue were used. Although specific definitions of the scores were developed for each criteria in the process, a Red score meant that the level of service was unacceptable. Yellow meant there were serious flaws or issues, Green meant the quality was acceptable, while Blue signified that the service exceed requirements.

The final scoring result gave a slight advantage to VeriSign after the company scored 14 Blue votes. Sentan received 13 Blue votes, while the other three only received a handful of mentions.

The Association for Competitive Technology (ACT) applauded the decision to retain VeriSign as the .net domain registry operator.

“The stability and security of the .Net domain is critical to the future of the Internet. We are pleased to see that ICANN put these concerns above corporate squabbles and politics in making its decision,” ACT president Jonathan Zuck said in a statement.

The .net bidding process, which began last year, is slightly behind schedule. Originally, the ranking results were scheduled to be completed by March 9, according to the request for proposal (RFP) on the .net bids, with the announcement of the final winner during the March ICANN board of directors meeting.

According to Kieran Baker, an ICANN spokesman, the board can either convene a special meeting or make the announcement as soon as next week, during the organization’s thrice-yearly ICANN meeting in Mar del Plata, Argentina, next week.

Regardless of the outcome, VeriSign’s appointment as the next .net registry operator is still subject to final approval of the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC).

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