ICANN Delays Sale of .Org Registry, Asks for More Information

The nonprofit in charge of the internet’s management has called on the Internet Society and the Public Interest Registry to make public more information on PIR’s sale to a private equity firm.

The announced sale of the .org domain to a private equity firm surfaced a lot of debate in the nonprofit and technology spaces in recent weeks.

Now, a key organization responsible for the internet’s management is calling for a timeout.

Last week, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) asked for more information about the sale of the .org top-level domain, something it was allowed to ask for from the Public Interest Registry (PIR), the current owners of the domain registry, as a part of their existing contract.

PIR has entered an agreement to be sold to Ethos Capital, a private equity firm. The price of the sale was initially undisclosed, though it was later revealed to be $1.135 billion.

“We have asked PIR to provide information related to the continuity of the operations of the .org registry, the nature of the proposed transaction, how the proposed new ownership structure would continue to adhere to the terms of our current agreement with PIR, and how they intend to act consistently with their promises to serve the .org community with more than 10 million domain name registrations,” ICANN said in a statement on its website.

The request by ICANN delays the sale for at least another month while the organization evaluates the information. ICANN says it is asking for the information “to ensure that we have a full understanding of this proposed acquisition.”

Beyond general criticism of the plan to sell a service intended for nonprofits to a for-profit entity, there has been concern among nonprofits that Ethos would significantly raise the price of .org registrations, something it is allowed to do after a price cap was removed earlier this year. A number of organizations, including ASAE and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have called on the Internet Society, which established PIR in 2002, to stop the sale of the top-level domain.

In a letter to the leaders of the Internet Society and PIR, ICANN General Counsel and Secretary John Jeffrey raised concerns about the transparency of the sale process, and called on the officials to publish details regarding the request to sell PIR—which it revealed PIR would not allow it to make public.

“We continue to believe that it is critical that your request, and the questions and answers in follow up to the request, and any other related materials, be made public,” Jeffrey wrote in the letter [PDF].

ICANN has pledged, no matter what happens, to “thoughtfully and thoroughly evaluate the proposed acquisition to ensure that the .org registry remains secure, reliable, and stable.”

(DenisKot/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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