ICANN considers registrar changes after RegisterFly debacle

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is seeking ideas and opinions on ways to modify its agreements with internet registrars to protect individuals and organisations that do business with them.

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The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is seeking ideas and opinions on ways to modify its agreements with internet registrars to protect individuals and organisations that do business with them.

The effort stems from the recent debacle involving registrar RegisterFly, where ICANN, which manages and oversees the internet's domain name system, had to strip of its accreditation after poor quality service prompted complaints from many of its tens of thousands of customers.

At its 29th international public meeting http://www.computerworlduk.com/management/online/isp/news/index.cfm?newsid=3703 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, ICANN hosted a workshop to discuss possible changes to its Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) and steps to ensure registrars provide good service to their customers.

Participants in the workshop generally agreed that the RAA was due for an update to prevent another situation like that with RegisterFly and because much has changed since the RAA was last amended about seven years ago.

"We need to deal with registrar accreditation and the procedures by which we accommodate registrants," said Susan Crawford, an ICANN board member who moderated the discussion.

Among the issues panellists and audience members debated was the need for internet registrars – companies accredited by ICANN to sell internet domain names to individuals and organisations – to place customers' data under contract or escrow with ICANN or another third party.

This would mean that in the event of a registrar meltdown, ICANN could access the data and help customers switch to another registrar.

"This is important to registrants. We want to be able to reconstitute a registrar if it fails so that registrants can continue to have access to their domains and be able to work with them," Crawford said.

Ironically, in its current form, the RAA has a “data escrow” provision to provide such cover, but this has not been implemented for several reasons. "It put a burden on ICANN to receive data, so the cost was all on ICANN. And until recently, there wasn't a budget item for the registered data escrow program," Crawford said.

Details on how the escrow will work, such as what will constitute a valid trigger for the data release and what data will be stored, are yet to be established,.

Jon Nevett, policy and ethics vice president of internet registrar Network Solutions, said ICANN's registrar constituency, which he chairs, had worked on the data escrow programme with ICANN, which recently requested proposals to provide escrow services.

Nevett said a key point for registrars was how ICANN would protect their customers' data if it needed to be transferred. "There is a lot of private information in this data," he said.

One of the issues ICANN is trying to work out is what data would be put in escrow. Under the current RAA provisions that data includes: registrant, administrative contact, technical contact, billing contact, name servers and expiration dates.

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