Wednesday, December 7, 2011

FTC Chairman Criticizes ICANN’s Planned Domain Name Expansion

The opposition to ICANN's planned January 2012 major expansion of Top Level Domains seems to quickly be gaining momentum in Washington.

According to a news report, the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission said today that ICANN’s plan to allow an unlimited number of new Internet addresses could be a “disaster” for consumers. Also, two House subcommittees have scheduled hearings on the ICANN plan for next week.

FTC Chairman’s Opposition

Specifically, at this morning’s hearing on antitrust issues before the House Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet subcommittee, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said: “We are very, very concerned that the rollout of new [domain names] has the potential to be a disaster for consumers and for businesses.”  He continued:  “We see enormous costs here to consumers and businesses and not a lot of benefit. So we are working with consumer protection agencies around the world who also have concerns” with the plan.

Leibowitz noted that FTC Internet fraud investigations frequently reveal that scammers use fraudulent information to register domain names, making them harder to track. The availability of far more domain names will make stopping them even harder.

Both Chairman Leibowitz and Subcommittee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., have communicated their concerns to the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.  The NTIA has oversight over ICANN and is currently weighing whether to extend a technical contract it has with ICANN that is up for renewal in March.  Leibowitz said he plans to contact ICANN directly soon about his concerns with the new proposal, as well.

Other Committee Hearings on ICANN Plan

As reported in our earlier blog post, the full Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday  on ICANN’s new domain name plan.  Also, the House Energy and Commerce Committee said Wednesday that its Communications and Technology subcommittee also will hold a hearing next week on ICANN’s new domain name plan.

Authors:  Paul C. Van Slyke       Tom Casagrande