In a follow-up letter to the January 16, 2020 missive signed by Ron Wyden, Richard Blumenthal, Elizabeth Warren, and Anna Eshoo, the five US senators have given reasons why they urge ICANN to block the proposed change of control of the .ORG registry to the private equity firm Ethos Capital (Ethos).
In our January letter, we wrote that ICANN’s bylaws commit it to acting for the public benefit “in all events,”2and that the public interest should be an especially prominent factor in determining who should be approved to operate the .ORG registry
The lawmakers insist that Ethos and PIR have not been transparent about who is behind the sale. PIR has even been reluctant to share the investors’ identities with ICANN. On December 9, 2019, ICANN asked PIR for the identities of the investors, including the percentage of ownership each entity would have.
The also write that Ethos and PIR have not been the most transparent about their business plan in addition to the $775million in equity provided by the investors, Ethos took out a$360 million loan that will saddle PIR with hundreds of millions of dollars of debt.15PIR has estimated that interest payments for the first year will be $20–25 million.16Private equity watchdog Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) estimated that even providing a generous estimate of PIR’s future.
We remain skeptical of the strategies that Ethos and PIR have described for raising incremental revenue
Ethos’Commitmentto Limit PricingIncreases is Weak
The senators insist that the PIC’s are weak, stating that “Instead of using PICs, Ethos and PIR could have made stronger commitments by, for example, reverting to the pre-2019 .ORG registry agreement that had clear contractual agreements to limit pricing increases, and contained no express permission to censor website content at the request of third parties.35In addition to the fact that they are not clearly enforceable, the commitments written into the PICs are weak.
In conclusion the letter states
ICANN Should Reject the Proposed Transfer of the .ORG Registry.
In the months since Ethos announced its intent to purchase PIR from ISOC, the .ORG community has been vocal and virtually unanimous in its opposition to the sale. Over 800 organizations and 25,000 people have signed a petition urging ICANN to block the proposed change of control.54.
Ethos, PIR, and ISOC have fielded questions from us, from the community, and from ICANN, and they have provided answers on pricing, business plans, and transparency that continue to indicate that the sale would not benefit the public or .ORG registrants.
Because the proposed sale of .ORG is against the public interest and would violate ICANN’s commitment to “preserve and enhance…the operational stability, reliability, security…and openness of the DNS and the Internet,”55we again urge you to reject this private equity takeover of the .ORGregistry.
Read more on the letter