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NSF & Congress

Hearing Summary: Internet Domain Name System

September 30, 1997

The House Basic Research Subcommittee held a second in a series of two hearings on the Internet Domain Name System on September 30, 1997. Testifying were a panel of four witnesses representing various interests within the Internet Community.

Mr. Donald M. Heath, President and CEO, Internet Society
Mr. Anthony M. Rutkowski, Director, World Internetworking Alliance
Mr. Andy Sernovitz, President, Association for Interactive Media
Ms. Barbara A. Dooley, Executive Director, Commercial Internet Exchange

Most of the hearing was confined to a discussion of the pros and cons of the International Ad-Hoc Committee (IAHC) proposal for domain name registry championed by Mr. Heath, President of the Internet Society, one of the key supporters of the IAHC process. The other witnesses were fairly uniform in their rejection of the IAHC proposal as currently constituted for a number of reasons, including a perceived lack of broad industry participation in the IAHC process and a potential reduction of U.S. government jurisdiction over IAHC activities.

None of the witnesses critical of the IAHC plan came forward with any other proposal. Instead, the consensus seemed to be towards a federal government-initiated transition plan that would gradually lead to an open, competitive industry-driven mechanism for Internet governance in the future. Ms. Dooley of CIX analogized the current situation to the earlier transfer of the NSFNET backbone. "[S]uccessful implementation [of a DNS transition] may take several years, Ms. Dooley said, "and should not be expedited simply for the sake of speed. Maintaining network stability during the transition must have the highest priority. Second, government involvement during this portion of the transition may be disproportionately large but then should be reduced as soon as possible as the transition concludes."

Member reaction to these sentiments was generally favorable. Rep. Gil Gutneckt (R-MN) asked if the status quo for DNS registry should be kept. Each of the panelists testified that that the current registration system had many benefits since it works quickly and efficiently. According to Mr. Sernowitz (representing Internet content providers), "Corporate America would be thrilled" to keep the current registry system primarily because of the convenience and speed at which one could register domain names. Ms. Dooley noted that industry -- especially users of domain names -- supported increased choice for DNS registration, but only under certain conditions and not at the expense of stability.