Yesterday's hearing by the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the House Energy and Commerce Committee added to the push-back in Washington to ICANN’s imminent plan to introduce generic top-level domains (gTLDs) ushering in the likes of .nike, .ford and other potential branded URLs.
In rare bipartisan unity these days, Republicans and Democrats reiterated concerns articulated last week in a similar hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee.
"I don't think it's ready for prime time," said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the subcommittee. “The more we do our role, the more ICANN may take a second look at it. Based on what I heard today, they should delay.” (Walden also cited an Apple example that hinted at his own confusion on the issue.)
Advertisers have been lobbying hard against the ICANN initiative and Dan Jaffe, EVP of the Association of National Advertisers, (ANA), testifying on behalf of its Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight (CRIDO), said the plan is a “reckless experiment” that threatens business and consumers.
"The ICANN program would pile billions of dollars of cost onto a challenging global economy," Jaffe testified. "These are resources that could be much better spent on job creation. This is not merely a bad policy choice but a serious threat to the legitimate interests of both companies and consumers on the Internet. We believe that both the decision and the process ICANN followed are fundamentally flawed and that the roll-out should be delayed.”
As with the previous hearing on the Hill, ICANN SVP Kurt Pritz remained defiant, countering: "A long and careful deliberative process produced this program. World-class experts on intellectual property, economics and internet security developed solutions and those solutions were reviewed by the internet community and vetted by governments."
“This process has not been rushed,” said Pritz. “Every issue has been discussed. No new issues have been raised. The people at this table participated in this debate. I’m not deterred at all from the conclusion that this will lead to great innovation in the Internet.”
Intergovernmental organizations (IGO’s) including the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund are opposed. “The IGO community concerns relate to the increased potential for the misleading registration and use of IGO names and acronyms in the domain name system under ICANN's significant expansion plans," Reuters noted.
Former ICANN chair Esther Dyson has become an outspoken critic of the new plan which she says will confuse Internet users. "Creating a whole set of redundant domain names isn't useful. This whole idea is fundamentally misguided. I hope ICANN will go back and reconsider."
Meanwhile, FairWinds Partners' Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse (CADNA) is gearing up to push for a Congressional amendment to the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), as stated by managing partner Josh Bourne: “The U.S Congress should take much-needed action to improve the language of [ACPA] so that it provides proper deterrents against cybersquatting.”
Also speaking out on behalf of ICANN, NetChoice Executive Director Steve DelBianco commented, "Businesses and brand owners were part of the policy development process for expanding Internet domains, and secured some new trademark protections. But our work is far from over. The business community at ICANN continues to fight for improvements to the program, and we could use all the help we can get."
Ranking member Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif. summed up the Committee’s position to ICANN thus: “You’ve been at this for six years, but it seems to me that during this time, there was the opportunity to work out the differences and the legitimate concerns we are hearing today. It’s ICANN, but it’s turning into ‘I CAN’T.’”
This much is clear, as Interbrand's Jerome McDonnell notes: "With one month to go until the application process begins, this is an uncertain time for brands and their owners."