WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announced today a full committee hearing on ICANN’s (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) expansion of top level domains. In January 2012, ICANN will begin allowing interested organizations and companies to apply for additional top level domains. This hearing will examine the merits and implications of this new program and ICANN’s continuing efforts to address concerns raised by the Internet community.
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Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IVU.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today’s hearing is about the future of the Internet. Starting in January, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, commonly referred to as ICANN, is planning to allow organizations and companies to apply for any generic or brand-specific top level domain name they wish. This means that hundreds—if not thousands—of new names are going to join the familiar world of “dot com,” “dot net,” and “dot org.” Get used to “dot hotels” or “dot auto” or “dot movie,” a surge of new names and addresses that create opportunities but could also create a lot of confusion.
If ICANN is determined to move forward, it should do so slowly and cautiously. The potential for fraud, consumer confusion, and cybersquatting is massive and argues for a phased in implementation. Scaling back the initial round of new top level domains introduced in 2013 may be a prudent approach. Companies, non-profit organizations, and others are rightly concerned that this new landscape will require them to spend money to protect their online identity. It’s my hope that we can phase this expansion in over time and not be regretful after the fact that it was done too hastily. That said, there are exciting new possibilities out there.
Companies and cities will now be able to place their names at the end of web addresses. And interested organizations will be able to apply for any generic top-level domain that they can think of, whether its “dot hotels,” “dot search,” “dot banks,” or “dot baseball.” With the current plan, the sky is the limit.
As the Senate Committee tasked with examining issues related to the Internet, it is critical that we understand what this will mean for the millions of Americans who use the Internet on a daily basis and the thousands of businesses and organizations that now depend upon the Internet to reach their customers and members.
Today’s discussion will focus on what unintended consequences, if any, we should be concerned about with top-level domain expansion. I know that ICANN has undergone a lengthy process to approve top-level domain expansion. Its decision will hopefully spur additional competition and innovation on the Internet. However, many in the Internet community, some of whom are here today, continue to raise concerns about unintended consequences related to the manner in which this expansion is being conducted. ICANN will have an opportunity today to discuss the steps it has taken to address those concerns.
It is important to remember that ICANN is a non-profit organization that was established in 1998 at the behest of the Department of Commerce. The United States government rightly decided that a private entity, representing the interests of the entire Internet community, should administer the critical infrastructure of the Internet. This multi-stakeholder approach has been very successful. The growth of the Internet in the last two decades has been one of the most important achievements in human history. It is now more important than ever for ICANN to live up to the ideals upon which it was founded. It must make decisions in the public interest in a transparent manner. The multi-stakeholder approach will not work without them.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on today’s panel. I am hopeful that today’s discussion will be constructive for ICANN, NTIA, and the Internet community.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Kurt PritzSenior Vice PresidentInternet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
Ms. Fiona AlexanderAssociate Administrator, Office of International Affairs, National Telecommunications and Information AdministrationU.S. Department of Commerce
Mr. Dan JaffeExecutive Vice President, Government Relations, Association of National AdvertisersCoalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight
Ms. Angela F. WilliamsSenior Vice President and General CounselYoung Men’s Christian Association of the United States of America
Ms. Esther DysonNew York, NY