Prices on Dot-Com Domains Set to Spike if New Deal is OK'd
Activists, nonprofits and multiple internet domain registrars are upset over what they call a sweetheart deal involving the U.S. government; VeriSign Inc., which maintains the dot-com domain; and a not-for-profit that oversees the internet's domain name system. The deal, which still needs to be signed off on, would allow an already highly-profitable public company to raise prices on website wholesalers for dot-com domains, by as much as 70% over the next decade.
The deal would likely mean that any increased pricing would be transferred over to users, rather than be borne by the registrars who sell domain registrations and charge for renewals. There are more than 144 million registered dot-com domains on the internet since it was introduced in January 1985.
In 2018, the Reston, Virginia-based VeriSign and the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration changed their dot-com cooperative agreement, repealed an Obama-era price freeze on the dot-com registry that kept prices at no more than $7.85.
Instead, the agreement noted that due to a "more dynamic DNS marketplace" the annual price of registration and renewal for dot-com domain names can be changed once VeriSign and Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which oversees the address book of the internet, agree to amend the registry-registrar agreement to allow for the price increase. That increase would cap increases to 7% over the max price charged the prior year, with a schedule of two year freezes every six years.
The 2012 agreement, which had kept prices frozen, had noted that VeriSign would be entitled to increase prices only if the Commerce Department provides "prior written approval that the exercise of such right will serve the public interest, such approval not to be unreasonably withheld." The NTIA did not respond to a request for comment.
Because dot-com is governed by two agreements, VeriSign is now waiting for ICANN, a not-for-profit public benefit corporation, to sign off on changes to its "registrar agreement," which would reflect and essentially enact such a price increase.
At the same time, ICANN is also evaluating a proposed agreement that would have VeriSign pay the Playa Vista, California-based ICANN $20 million over five years - beginning in January - to "support ICANN's initiatives to preserve and enhance the security, stability and resiliency of the DNS (domain name server)," according to ICANN. It's unclear exactly how the money would be used or why it's needed.
"It has become apparent that many people don't realize that ICANN is not a price regulator," said Göran Marby, ICANN's president and CEO, said in a statement to dot.LA. "Our registry agreement with VeriSign, the registry operator of dot-com, merely reflects the pricing changes to the Cooperative Agreement between VeriSign and the U.S. Government under which dot-com fees are governed."
Richard Kirkendall, who is the CEO of Namecheap, an ICANN-accredited domain name registrar that's based in Los Angeles, emailed its dot-com customers Monday, linking to a letter that strongly opposed the new agreement, which was announced by ICANN and VeriSign jointly on Jan. 3.
"ICANN and VeriSign made these changes in secret, without consulting or incorporating feedback from the ICANN community or Internet users," Kirkendall wrote, adding that ICANN has a history of making similar deals behind closed doors and ignoring unified opposition.
In a comment filed at the end of the public comment period on Friday, Verisign, which reported revenue of $1.23 billion for 2019, wrote that it was troubled by an "attempt by a small but vocal group" to "hijack" the ICANN public comment process, distort its outcome and undermine ICANN's legitimacy for its own financial purposes. VeriSign has maintained that the changes will "strengthen the security, stability and resilience of the Domain Name System."
But Cory Doctorow, a special advisor to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for digital civil liberties, said he found it hard to reconcile ICANN's mission to exercise good governance over the DNS with its actions. Doctorow added that this situation demonstrates the need to find another entity to manage dot-com that doesn't want to "gouge internet users."
"I appreciate that ICANN would like to have the $20 million that VeriSign promised it, but VeriSign is spending that money to make $800 million, which is money that domain registrants will end up shelling out," Doctorow said.
ICANN has recently received criticisms over its handling of the ongoing potential sale of the dot-org registry. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra stepped into the fight earlier this month over whether a private equity firm should be allowed to purchase control of the registry for all dot-org internet domains in a deal that's worth more than $1 billion.
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It's almost 90 degrees outside in Los Angeles as lines of cars pull up to Dodger Stadium, home to a mass vaccination site that opened Friday.
"Please make sure that they're not under the sun in the cart," Edith Mirzaian is telling a volunteer as she directs the person to put ice packs on coolers that hold up to 20 COVID vaccines. Mirzaian is a USC associate professor of clinical pharmacy and an operational lead at one of California's largest vaccination sites.
Dodger Stadium alone — once the nation's largest COVID-19 testing site — is slated to vaccine up to 12,000 people each day, county and city health officials said this week. Officials plan to finish vaccinating some 500,000 health care and assisted care employees by the end of this month before opening appointments up to people 65 and older.
Mirzaian is desperately trying to make sure that the vaccines don't spoil.
"We have to be the guardians of the vaccine," she said.
Earlier this month, hundreds of vaccinations were lost after a refrigerator went out in Northern California, forcing the hospital to rush to give out hundreds of doses. Mirzaian's task tells a larger story of the difficult and often daunting logistical process required to roll out a vaccine that requires cold temperatures.
"You know they can't be warm so just keep an eye out," she gently reminds the volunteer.
The volunteers and staff from USC, the Los Angeles Fire Department and Core Laboratories prepared enough doses to vaccinate around 2,000 residents on Friday and they plan to increase capacity each day after.
Local health officials are holding the vaccination syringes in coolers after they leave the air-conditioned trailers. The coolers are then covered in ice packs and wheeled on carts to clinicians administering shots to health care workers and nursing home staff eligible under the state's vaccination plan.
"Vaccines are the surest route to defeating this virus and charting a course to recovery, so the City, County, and our entire team are putting our best resources on the field to get Angelenos vaccinated as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible," said mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement announcing the plan.
Health officials around the world are racing against time as the virus mutates and poses greater dangers.
"We have a little bit of borrowed time here right now because these variants are not here in great numbers from what we can tell," said Susan Butler-Wu, an associate professor in clinical pathology at USC's Keck School of Medicine of USC.
Curbing the spread of the virus is a vital way to prevent mutant strains from developing, she said.
Mirzaian, who arrived at the site before it opened at 8 a.m., said that there were logistical challenges as volunteers scrambled to assemble what will likely be the hub of the region's vaccination efforts.
"It's challenging to make sure that everyone knows what the process is and what we're doing and what to tell the patients who receive the vaccines."
After a few hours, the procedure moved quicker.
Residents have to show identification and proof of employment before they're taken through a list of pre-screening questions and given the vaccine through their car window. They're required to then wait for 15 minutes while clinicians monitor them for side effects.
Mirzaian said the process took each car about an hour. While eligible residents can walk-in for vaccinations, she recommends they make appointments so that enough doses are made available each day.
"As long as people have their appointments, they will get in," she said. "We are ready. We are like an army ready to give vaccines."
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As part of the reorganization, Chief Strategy Officer Jared Grusd, who previously oversaw content, will become a strategic advisor to Snap CEO Evan Spiegel.
As a casting director, Lacey Kaelani has a leading view on Hollywood's content pipeline. Based on what she's been seeing on her venture-backed casting platform, Casting Depot, prepare for a deluge of unscripted shows.
"It's all gonna be handheld videos where everything looks like a Zoom call," she said. "Dating shows, talk shows, food competition shows – that's what was cast and is going into production."
The Casting Depot launched its latest beta version on Friday, with a "six-figure" investment from global venture capital firm Antler. Its board includes leaders from companies including CAA, Airtime, iHeartMedia, WorkMarket and IAC.