Memorandum submitted by Andrew Dudley
Please find attached a page briefing note which
proposes that OFCOM should attain reserve powers over the delegation
of the country code top level domain (ccTLD) dot UK.
Whether current arrangements prevail, or the
UKDA becomes a reality, it is my belief that the OFCOM bill provides
a timely opportunity for the UK 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 all concerned.
When considering the future implications of
convergence and the effect it will have upon the way in which
the traditional mediums of print, radio, and even television will
be delivered, not to mention the way in which we will communicate,
it is easy to see just how dependent many of the mediums that
OFCOM seeks to regulate will be upon the efficient running of
the ccTLD dot UK and the domain name system that resides below.
The implications of this upon the regulatory
structure, which is now being shaped should NOT be underestimated.
As such, while industry self-regulation is the
way forward, there must in my opinion, be an ultimate authority
with the powers to step in and redelegate control should it be
THE UKDAA FOUNDATION FOR THE FUTURE
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 co.uk;
org.uk; plc.uk; ltd.uk; net.uk; and sch.uk. 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. Other than Nominet, there are presently no
other commercial SLD operators in the UK.
Not only does Nominet maintain the database
of all 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 policyNominet sets the rules and acts as
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 me.uk.
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 [.me.uk] 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 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 dollar spent on domain name registration
This paper proposes a similar transparent self-regulatory
regime in the UKa 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
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
Derive income on a per domain name
Periodically review the self regulatory
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 cooperation with other continental
bodies [eg Australasia] could merge to form a global authority,
which unlike current arrangements would have no ties to any specific
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