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Non-Profits Object Removal of .org Price Caps in a Joint Letter to ICANN

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A group of non-profit organizations has opposed the removal of price caps in the .org Registry Agreement. In a joint letter sent to ICANN on Monday, The group that comprises NPR, YMCA, C-SPAN, National Geographic Society, AARP, The Conservation Fund, Oceana, and National Trust for Historic Preservation says they are disappointed and concerned that ICANN has proposed removing price caps from the .org Agreement.

In the letter they say

The undersigned non-profit organizations write to express our opposition to the removal of price caps in the .org Registry Agreement (the “.org Agreement”).

We agree with the current .org registry operator, the Public Interest Registry, that the .org gTLD “has assumed the reputation as the domain of choice for organisations dedicated to serving the public interest.”[1]  We have come to rely on this reputation to help distinguish the online presence of our organizations from the online presence of organizations that are not intended to serve the public interest.  As nonprofit organizations, we also have come to rely on the certainty and predictability of reasonable domain name registration expenses when allocating our limited resources.

We therefore are disappointed and concerned that ICANN has proposed removing price caps from the .org Agreement.  The reasonable expectation of .org registrants was, and continues to be, that prices would remain capped to ensure stable and reasonable domain name pricing for the millions of nonprofit organizations that have invested in a .org web presence.  These organizations put their trust in ICANN as caretaker of the public interest in the .org name space.

If the existing price caps are removed, there will be no limits on the prices the Public Interest Registry can charge, and any wholesale cost increases imposed by the registry likely will be passed on to .org registrants such as the organizations we represent.  This will accordingly introduce new budgetary uncertainty to the class of organizations that can least afford such uncertainty.  Every additional dollar earmarked for domain name registrations is a dollar that is not available to advance the public interest purpose of nonprofit registrants that use the .org name space.  While it is possible the Public Interest Registry may choose not to raise prices, despite the removal of the caps, the .org registry is too important to leave this decision to the registry’s discretion.

ICANN has articulated no compelling policy basis for this proposed change.  Instead, ICANN has represented that the intent is just to bring the .org Agreement into conformity with the base registry agreement used by ICANN with respect to other gTLDs not set aside for organizations that serve the public interest.  This strikes us as conformity for its own sake.  ICANN should not disregard the public interest in favor of administrative convenience.  Moreover, the Public Interest Registry is a nonprofit organization itself, and there is no evidence that it needs to somehow compete with for-profit registries, or that it needs unlimited additional funds to continue to operate as it has.

The .org gTLD is in a unique position as the presumed domain space for public interest organizations – a domain space that was created to benefit the public.  ICANN has an obligation to ensure that the name space and the governing .org Agreement continue to reflect the public interest objectives of its constituency.

We hope that ICANN will reconsider this proposal and ensure that price caps are retained in the final agreement.

The price cap removal has been proposed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), which oversees the web’s domain name system.

It wants to remove the cap because it dates from an era when there were only a few so-called “top-level” domains. Now there are more than 1,200 and none of the new ones are subject to any price restrictions.

ICANN’s plan drew criticism from registrar Namecheap, which said the move could mean prices “shoot up” or go “sky high”.

“Switching domains is hard, so you will have little option but to pay the higher prices,” wrote Jackie Dana, Namecheap’s blog editor.

The domain overseeer launched a consultation exercise to debate the idea in March, and asked anyone involved with domains to comment via a discussion forum on its own website. The consultation exercise ended on 29 April and ICANN will report on the response on 13 May.

Of the three domains under consideration, .org is by far the biggest. It is believed to have about 10 million customers, many of which are non-profit groups or charities

But in a statement to the BBC, ICANN said it was not a price regulator, and that the protections were put in place by the US Department of Justice at a time when there were fewer options for organisations wanting to register a domain name. Those protections are no longer in effect, it said.

“Existing domain registrants are also afforded some protection in the event of price increases,” added Cyrus Namazi, Icann’s head of global domains division.

“They must be given a minimum six-month notice of any price increase and can renew their registrations for as many as 10 years prior to the change taking effect, thus enabling a registrant to lock in current prices for up to 10 years in advance of a pricing change”

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James Barnley

I’m the editor of the DomainingAfrica. I write about internet and social media, focusing mainly on Domains. As a subscriber to my newsletter, you’ll get a lot of information on Domain Issues, ICANN, new gtld’s, Mobile technology and social media.

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