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IP: Farnet's Washington Update 10/03/97
From: David Farber <farber () cis upenn edu>
Date: Sat, 04 Oct 1997 18:23:06 -0400

FARNET'S WASHINGTON UPDATE --- OCTOBER 3, 1997


IN THIS ISSUE:


HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE ON BASIC RESEARCH HOLDS HEARINGS ON INTERNET DOMAIN
NAMES


FARNET HOSTS MEETING OF STATE NETWORKS


_____________________________________________________________________________




HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE ON BASIC RESEARCH HOLDS HEARINGS ON INTERNET DOMAIN
NAMES


September 25/30 - Lauded as the "first Congressional hearings to be
broadcast over the Internet", the House Science Committee on Basic Research
devoted two hearings to a discussion of the current Internet domain name
system. The two hearings reviewed the federal government's role, if any, in
the transition of Internet domain name registration to the private sector.
Currently, Internet domain name registration is run by Network Solutions,
Inc.(NSI) whose five year contract with the National Science Foundation
(NSF)expires this March.  Some critics of this arrangement argue that it
equates to monopolistic control over Internet domain name registration,
preventing fair competition in the registration of top level domain names.
While acknowledging the private sector's role and influence in the
development of the Internet, some government officials have voiced concerns
that technology does not exist to permit competition in Internet domain
name registration. 


Currently there is no precise transition plan for transferring control over
to the private sector. NSF's contract with NSI may be extended for an
additional six months, which most agree will be the case as a transition
plan is developed.  Ensuring "stability of the Internet" was the mantra of
the committee, although "stability" was never defined.


During the first hearing, Dr. Joseph Bordogna, Acting Director of the NSF,
stated that the Internet domain registration was "not consistent with the
mission of the NSF" whose focus is now on developing applications for the
Internet, not manageing its day-to-day operation. Even so, it is not
surprising that the federal government is deeply involved in the transition
process.  According to Larry Irving, Assistant Secretary for Communication
and Information at the U.S. Department of Commerce, an interagency working
group has been studying this problem since March, 1997.  The overriding
theme of the domain-name registration principles presented by the working
group espoused a self-governing mechanism that defines responsibilities and
maintains accountability while recognizing the global nature of the
Internet.  


Although government's role was downplayed, Irving described what could be
considered a high-profile role for the Department of Commerce.  Commerce
will take a lead role for the Clinton Administration during the transition
process and has promised to present policy recommendations by November, 1997. 


Another issue discussed during the first hearing was the status of $30
million in registration fees set aside by NSI. Under the cooperative
agreement between the NSF and NSI, thirty percent of registration fees must
be set aside for Internet infrastructure development.  None of the
panelists could answer exactly who was in charge of the fund, nor where the
funds would be allocated.  Bordogna felt that the NSF, with its proven
track record for Internet development, should receive the funds.  None of
the panelists could answer whether this money would be used for the Next
Generation Internet (NGI). 


Because an agreed-upon domain name transition plan will not be available in
the near future, it is almost certain that the contract with NSI will be
extended for another six months. In addition, it is likely that a federal
and eventually an intergovernmental organization such as the World Trade
Organization (WTO)or International Telecommunications Union (ITU) will have
a coordination/regulatory role as the Internet domain name registration
system evolves into a competitive environment.


(See witness testimony:
http://www.house.gov/science/hearing.htm#Basic_Research )


FARNET HOSTS MEETING OF STATE NETWORKS


September 28-30 - FARNET hosted a "Gathering of State Networks" this past
weekend in Ypsilanti, Michigan, allowing state network administrators and
representatives from government and the public sector the opportunity to
share ideas and develop future strategies.  Eleven state networks gave
presentations, providing details on the challenges (in particular obtaining
both better bandwidth and qualified staff) and direction their respective
networks intend to pursue.   


In addition to the state networking presentations, participants heard
updates on national initiatives such as the Internet2 initiative and the
National Science Foundation's high performance networks.  Casey Lide of
FARNET provided an update on FARNET's States Inventory Project. (See
http://www.states.org/ ) The conference concluded with a panel providing
multiple perspectives on the Universal Service Fund and e-Rate. There is
still considerable confusion over the application procedures, specifically
whether state networks will be classified as telecommunication providers
(requiring them to contribute to the fund). The FCC has reported to FARNET
that it is working to clarify that issue.   


FARNET will continue to host such meetings from time to time. By providing
a rare opportunity for state networks to convene, information-intensive
conferences such as the gathering in Michigan will hopefully continue to be
successful and productive for FARNET members.  


Detailed information on the conference and copies of individual
presentations will be available on FARNET's website next week.  For more
information on FARNET:  http://www.farnet.org . 


____________________________________________________________________________
_________________
Written from FARNET's Washington office, "FARNET's Washington Update" is a
service to FARNET members and other interested subscribers.  We gratefully
acknowledge EDUCOM's NTTF and the Coalition for Networked Information
(CNI)for additional support.  If you would like more information about the
Update or would like to offer comments or suggestions, please contact
Garret Sern at garret () farnet org 












**************************************************
"Photons have neither morals or visas"  --  Dave Farber 1996
**************************************************


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