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Last Updated: Monday, 4 December 2006, 12:15 GMT
Deal signed on .com domain future
Computer keyboard and dollars, Eyewire
The .com domain is synonymous with the web boom
The US government has given its blessing to a controversial deal over the future of the lucrative .com net domain.

The deal gives .com administrator Verisign control over the domain until 2012.

The US Department of Commerce retains some oversight of Verisign and has final approval of any price rises to renew .com net addresses.

Critics said the deal gave Verisign a monopoly hold on the iconic domain.

Controversial contract

The original deal over the .com domain was negotiated by Verisign and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) which oversees the net's address infrastructure.

Details of that deal were handed over to the US Department of Commerce in March 2006. Although the internet is increasingly an international phenomenon, the US retains the right to rubber-stamp Icann decisions on how the infrastructure operates.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency of the US Department of Commerce, has spent the last nine months scrutinising the proposed agreement and reviewing comments made on it by net bodies and companies.

Verisign has run the .com domain since 1999 and has now won the right to keep on controlling it until 2012. The deal also gives it the right to raise prices to renew .com domains in four of the six years of the contract.

Price rises are limited to 7% in any year and six months notice must be given of any proposed increase.

However, the NTIA has kept final approval of any price rises and of subsequent renewal of the .com contract. The NTIA said the contract would only be renewed at the end of its term if "the approval will serve the public interest".

When Icann unveiled the deal it was criticised for giving Verisign control over .com for so long.

The .com domain is by far the most popular of the net's addresses and currently there are 59 million domains registered which use the suffix. Verisign maintains the address books of who owns which .com domain and runs the computers that direct web users' computers to the right place.

The deal also signals the end of legal action taken by Verisign against Icann and the dropping of a retaliatory suit by the net overseer.

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