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.COM Price Increase? ICANN Board Approves Settlement of Long Term Dispute With VeriSign


By Derek Iwasiuk
March 01, 2006

The board of the Internet's main oversight agency has approved a deal under which VeriSign Inc. must meet some conditions in order to raise fees for ``.com'' domain names.

VeriSign, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., operates the servers that constitute the Internet's core address book for ``.com'' Web sites, making sure that people find Web sites. The company sells ``.com'' addresses for $6 each to registrars who then sell them to the public.

Under the deal approved Tuesday by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, VeriSign is allowed to raise its annual fee for domain names, which registrars could then pass along to customers.

The deal limits VeriSign's annual price increases to 7 percent in four of the next six years. In two of the years, VeriSign could raise fees by the same percentage only in response to a security threat or to comply with an ICANN mandate.

The ICANN board was divided on the issue, voting 9 to 5 for approval, with one abstention. Statements by the board members were not immediately available.

The deal has faced opposition from some registrars, who have complained about the price increases and the fact that like previous contracts, it gives VeriSign the first right to renew the contract with ICANN when it expires in 2012.

``We are disappointed that after hearing from so many Internet stakeholders about why this proposal is anticompetitive, the ICANN board still approved a known bad deal,'' said Champ Mitchell, chief executive of Network Solutions Inc., a registrar that was sold off by VeriSign in 2003.

The deal needs final approval by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Mitchell urged the government to reject it.

VeriSign said it was ``pleased'' with ICANN's approval, and noted that it was similar to a deal reached last year over ``.net'' domain names, which the company also administers.

In afternoon trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market, shares of VeriSign rose 4 cents to $23.70.

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