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NSF & Congress

Hearing Summary: Final Administration Plan on Domain Name System Could be Ready in Weeks, Not Months, Lawmakers Told

March 31, 1998

At a March 31, 1998 joint hearing of the House Basic Research and Technology Subcommittees, the administration stated that a final plan for administration of the Internet Domain Name System (DNS) could be in place very soon.

Ira Magaziner, President Clinton's Internet Advisor, stated several times that the Clinton administration intends to hand over administration of domain name registration to a competitive, private system with oversight from a privately created, not-for-profit organization. That vision was presented in a "green paper" proposed by the Clinton Administration last year.

Basic Research Subcommittee Chairman Charles "Chip" Pickering (R-MS) noted that the existing cooperative agreement between the National Science Foundation and Network Solutions Inc. (NSI) for the registering of Internet Domain Names would automatically extend until September 30, 1998. In light of this deadline, Pickering asked Magaziner whether a final administration plan for the future of the DNS would be in place before that time. Magaziner assured Pickering that a getting a final plan together should be a "matter of weeks, not months", and well before September 30th.

The key hurdle preventing completion of a final plan for DNS administration seems to be objections made by the Internet Council of Registrars (CORE). That group had proposed a private plan for moving the global network away from the current system where one company -- currently NSI -- acts as sole registrar of top level domains, like ".com," ".net" and ".org."

Former congressman Jim Courter -- representing the CORE group -- criticized the Magaziner plan as one that will perpetuate a monopoly registration system rather than open competition and ensure better service and lower prices for Internet users. However, after questioning by Chairman Pickering, both Courter and Magaziner indicated they were open to compromise over the number of registries and other issues.

However, Maganizer noted that CORE is just one of many competing interests in the debate. He emphasized that it was the intense backlash against the CORE plan that prompted the Clinton administration to take a formal oversight role of the transitional process. If the differences were only with the CORE group, consensus, he said, would be easy. Despite the difficulties at achieving consensus, Magaziner reiterated the governments intention to have a final, consensus plan in place very soon.