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Tuesday, 4 July, 2000, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
Net groups in world wide wrangle
European country codes
European registrars are up in arms over domain names
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

The people who keep the internet running are falling out over how to run the network.

European registrars who maintain the lists of websites ending in country codes such as .uk and .fr are defying the web's new co-ordinating body.

We're vociferously against a domain name tax being imposed by a US company

Fay Howard
The 30 registrars are refusing to pay a bill levied on them by the new body, saying that they want guarantees about standards of service before they hand over the cash.

The wrangle will come to a head next week when all the organisations meet in Yokohama, Japan.

Owner occupier

The European registrars have fallen out with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) that was created in 1998 to look after the databases your computer consults when you go surfing.

These databases, called root servers, are the master lists of where individual domains can be found.

Before ICANN was created these servers, and many other administrative tasks, were done by several companies under contract to the US Government.

As the internet has became a global resource rather than a US one it was deemed inappropriate for US organisations to carry out these tasks.

Money worries

Unlike its predecessors, Icann is not funded by any government. So it is asking the organisations that look after country code domains to pay for its upkeep.

But the European registrars are unhappy about handing over almost $1 million when they have signed no contract with Icann.

Between them the registrars look after five million domain names - two-thirds of the total registered to country codes rather than generic domains such as .com and .net.

"We're vociferously against a domain name tax being imposed by a US company," said Fay Howard, general manager of the Council of European National Top-Level Domain Registries (Centr), which is acting on behalf of the 30 organisations.

She said that a lot of the bills Icann is struggling to pay came out of the legal work needed to take over responsibilities from Network Solutions and the other internet bodies.

European registrars do not think they should pay for something they had no responsibility for, she said.

Continuous care

Ms Howard added that Centr was also worried about the stability of the root servers, how they were being maintained and the standards of service they can expect from Icann.

Centr is not planning to hand over any money until it is sure the root servers are being looked after on a 24-hour-a-day basis.

Centr is not convinced that anything has changed since the days when Network Solutions looked after the root servers on an ad-hoc basis.

With many companies relying on their website to keep them trading this is not good enough anymore.

"In those days the internet was only used by academics, researchers and geeks," said Ms Howard, "Now it's big business."

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See also:

30 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Domain name auction row
01 May 00 | Scotland
Scotland entering new domain
07 Mar 00 | Business registrar sold for $21bn
30 Jul 99 | The Company File
EU Internet address inquiry
02 Dec 99 | Business
The $7.5m net address
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