Network Solutions Inc., Herndon, Va., appears destined for some major changes - becoming independent from its parent, San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp., and giving up its role as the sole Internet domain name registrar.
Industry experts predict Network Solutions will be spun off, likely in a public offering, in March. Gabe Battista, the company's CEO, would not confirm such speculation but said leaving SAIC is certainly a possibility. "We consider it from time to time," he said.Separately, Network Solutions is faced with a proposal by an international group called the Internet Ad Hoc Committee, led by the Reston, Va.-based Internet Society, to let other companies register domain names. Currently, Network Solutions has a monopoly on the .com, .org and .net assignments. The National Science Foundation, which had funded the Internet backbone until 1995 when private companies took it over, chose the company in 1993 to handle this role.
IAHC put out a proposal Dec. 19 that addresses such areas as creating competition among domain name registrars and adding to the domain name categories. Conclusions were posted at http://www.iahc.org. Public comments were collected until Jan. 17. Final conclusions will be issued Feb. 3.
Don Heath, president of the Internet Society and chairman of the IAHC committee, said he expects the new domain registrars to range from established telecommunications companies to innovative start-ups that will focus only on this job. The result, he said, will be good for business and individual Internet users. "Instead of having a situation where you have a monopoly ... the price will come down," Heath said.
The entire process will likely serve as a model for future Internet debates. "I hope we can further the cause of Internet governance on issues that become controversial," Heath said.
The new domain names will consist of three to five letters each and will be chosen by Internet users and representatives of organizations involved in the project.
In the meantime, Network Solutions has put out its own proposal to create the American Registry for Internet Numbers to act as the clearinghouse for Internet domain fees and assignments. The organization would charge Internet service providers from $2,500 to $20,000 per year for registration of Internet addresses in addition to domain name fees. The Association of Online Professionals, Alexandria, Va., a trade group for service providers is already protesting that suggestion.
Some industry watchers have seen the IAHC proposal as a direct attack on Network Solutions. But Battista said he prefers Internet Society rules to government regulation. So far, the government has for the most part taken a hands-off role when it comes to the Internet. "It's an issue that has to be resolved by the Internet community," Battista said.
Battista said his company supports the idea of competition, but he disagreed with the idea that there must be more domain registrars to make the process work.