Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by Personal Domain Names Limited



  In just under two decades the UK domain name system (DNS) has established itself as a national resource of the utmost importance to the British economy. PDN, a non-profit company, is spearheading a campaign to create a new self-regulatory body to lay the foundation for the imminent growth of the UK's domain name system. This new body would be more efficient, pro-consumer and pro-choice than current arrangements.


  The .uk domain is one of about 200 country code top level domains (ccTLDs). The ccTLD .UK was issued to the United Kingdom on the 24 April 1985. Since then six commercially available second level domains (SLDs) have been created. They are;;;;; and Through an historical accident in 1996, the management of the UK's domain name system was assumed by a private monopoly called Nominet. Its members predominately consist of Internet service providers and other interested parties. There are presently no other SLD operators in the UK, other than Nominet.

  Not only does Nominet maintain the database of all commercially available SLDs in the UK but it also sets the policy on whether to establish any new SLDs. In short, it is in charge of both the commercial running of the dot UK infrastructure and the regulation of policy—Nominet sets the rules and acts as judge.

  In 1999 an application procedure was developed to provide third party organisations with the opportunity to apply for the creation and management of a new SLD. In order to encourage the participation of the private individual and to improve the diversity of the dot UK namespace, PDN sought to establish a new SLD called

  In a procedure that saw Nominet acting as co-bidder, regulator and bid adjudicator, Nominet despite being faced with a superior application awarded the contract to itself.

  As the potentially largest SLD [] to have been created within the UK, Nominet has assumed total dominance over the dot UK namespace and has successfully established itself as the UK's sole "national operator".

  This application procedure is under preliminary investigation by the Office of Fair Trading.


  It is believed that there should be a clear separation between the formation and regulation of policy and the running of a commercial operation.

  Following examples set by the Australian Government, the UK should look towards the establishment of a body capable of laying the foundation for the successful and imminent growth of the .uk namespace.

  Australia has established a new regime in which a self-funded and self-regulated body has assumed regulatory control over the ccTLD .au and everything below. This body is called the Australian Domain Administration (auDA). In order to introduce full and open competition into what was considered to be a closed market, this new body has put all existing SLDs out to public tender. Beyond the increased security a decentralised network brings, it is believed that this regulatory model provides the greatest value for every pound spent on domain name registration services.

  This paper proposes a similar transparent self-regulatory regime in the UK—a ukDA. Under the approval of the UK Government, the ukDA would assume responsibility for the ccTLD .UK and be nationally responsible for the formation and regulation of all policies concerning the UK's domain name system and its day to day operation.

  The UKDA would not be responsible for the running of an SLD, since this would compromise its ability to remain impartial. Furthermore, to ensure that the ukDA remained truly representative of and responsive to the UK Internet community, membership would be granted to every single domain name registrant whom would be actively encouraged to participate in the regulatory regime.

  In short, the ukDA would:

    —  Ensure a clear separation between policy and commercial operations.

    —  Introduce competition into an environment, which is presently controlled by one "network operator".

    —  Be subject to legislative and Judicial Review.

    —  Derive income on a per domain name registered basis.

    —  Periodically review the self regulatory system.

    —  Improve industry confidence through the establishment of a national dispute resolution policy, consumer protection program and the introduction of a service level agreement.


  At present there is no formal agreement between the UK Government and Nominet governing the management of the UK's domain name system. In view of its national importance, the UK Government should attain reserve powers that would allow it to assume and re-delegate control of the ccTLD, in the event that self regulation proved ineffective. For example, the UKDA would be subject to powers held by the Secretary of State or Oftel or later OFCOM if it failed to:

    —  Promote an adequate level of competition.

    —  Provide an acceptable balance between innovation and efficiency.

    —  Operate in the Interests of all concerned.

  It is believed that the forthcoming OFCOM bill provides a timely opportunity for the Government to make way for formal powers to be introduced that will allow it to ensure that this national resource is run in the interests of the United Kingdom.


  The ukDA could also take the lead in forming a European wide body which, in co-operation with other continental bodies [eg Australasia] could merge to form a global authority, which unlike current arrangements would have no ties to any specific nation.

  At present ICANN, a US-based organisation, is responsible for the making of decisions that affect the global running of the Internet. ICANN is being consistently criticised by Civil Liberty Groups over its inability to act democratically. A body similar to the United Nations would be better placed to represent the interests of each nation on an equal and totally accountable basis.

5 March 2002

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