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Testimony of J. Beckwith Burr

Before the House Committee on Science Subcommittee on Basic Research and Subcommittee on Technology
October 07, 1998
Testimony of J. Beckwith Burr
Associate Administrator (Acting)
National Telecommunications and Information Administration


Before the House Committee on Science
Subcommittee on Basic Research
Subcommittee on Technology


October 7, 1998


Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is a pleasure to appear this afternoon to discuss progress on the privatization of Internet domain name and address management functions.

On June 5, 1998, the Department of Commerce released The Management of Internet Names and Addresses (the White Paper), which describes the process by which the Administration would transition responsibility for certain domain name management functions now performed by or on behalf of the United States to a new, not-for-profit corporation established by the private sector. The White Paper laid out five important near-term tasks. This afternoon I would like to give the Committee a status report on those tasks.

First, the White Paper indicated that we would ramp down the Cooperative Agreement with Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI) with the objective of introducing competition into the domain name space. Our objectives, as laid out in the White Paper, included NSI's agreement to:


  • take specific actions, designed to permit the development of competition in the domain name registration and to approximate what would be expected in the presence of market competition;
  • recognize the role of the new corporation to establish and implement domain name system (DNS) policy and to establish terms applicable to new and existing generic top level domains (gTLDs) and registries; and

  • make available, on an ongoing basis appropriate databases, software, documentation, technical expertise, and other intellectual property for DNS management and shared registration of domain names.

Our second task under the White Paper, is to enter into an agreement with the new corporation to undertake a transition process leading, ultimately, to the new corporation's assumption of responsibility for management of the DNS. In order to do so, of course, a new corporation needed to emerge from the private sector. As you will hear more about, over the summer, a diverse group of Internet stakeholders have been participating in international discussions to form such a corporation. Last week the Department of Commerce received a proposal, including a proposed interim board, from a newly incorporated California corporation named the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). We also received two other proposals. One proposal, submitted by the Boston Working Group, outlines a set of suggested modifications to the ICANN proposal, and the other proposal, from Ronda Hauben, suggests principles for the creation of an international cooperative of researchers to manage DNS functions. NTIA has posted the proposals submitted and established an e-mail address for public comment. Based on our review of the proposals and a review of the public comments received, the Department of Commerce intends, in the next several weeks, to negotiate an agreement with a new DNS management corporation.

Third, as described in the White Paper, the United States asked the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to convene an international process to: 1) develop a set of recommendations for an approach to resolving trademark/domain name disputes involving cyberpiracy, 2) develop recommendations for the protection of famous trademarks in the generic top level domains, and 3) to evaluate the effects of adding new top level domains and related dispute resolution procedures on domain name and trademark holders. Under the leadership of Dr. Francis Gurry, WIPO has convened an experts committee from around the world and has undertaken a series of international consultations on the subject. WIPO is scheduled to finalize its report and present its recommendations to the new corporation in March, 1999.

Fourth, the United States has continued to consult with the international community, including other interested governments, on the evolution and privatization of the domain name system. We will continue to consult internationally as we make decisions on the transition of domain name system management functions to the new corporation.

Fifth and finally, a high level group has been convened in the Executive Branch to begin a review of Internet root server system security and management.

This represents tremendous progress since the White Paper was issued in June. We are steadily moving towards making the policies described in the White Paper a reality. The Department of Commerce has relied on an open and participatory process to develop policy set forth in the White Paper, providing the global public an opportunity to help shape and comment on the issues before us. The White Paper issued a challenge to the global private sector to create a new corporation to undertake management Internet DNS functions, and the Department of Commerce has posted those proposals, the results of that challenge, for open, public consideration and comment. I would like to thank all of the members of the global Internet community for the extraordinary effort they have invested in this process in recent months. In particular, Professor Tamar Frankel deserves special mention as a key coordinator for the International Forum on the White Paper.

Finally, I would like to close by thanking this Committee and its staff for its consistently thoughtful and constructive participation in the development and implementation of the plan to transition DNS management to the private sector.

I would be happy to answer any questions that members of the Committee might have at this time.