February 20, 1998
The Honorable Clarence L. Irving
Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director,
National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Department of Commerce - Room 4898
Washington, DC 20230
Dear Mr. Irving:
On behalf of the nearly six hundred college and university members of Educom, I am writing in response to the recently issued Proposal on Management of Internet Names and Addresses, also known as the Green Paper. American institutions of higher education have been acknowledged leaders in the design, development and deployment of the Internet since its inception. In addition, they have made major commitments of resources, in the hundreds of millions of dollars, to the use of Internet technology for their research and education missions. In the most recently completed survey of Internet hosts, more than five million were registered in the .edu domain. The future of the Internet and its potential contribution to college and university programs in the 21st Century are even more critical than its current essential role. To this end, more than one hundred universities are partnering with industry and with Federal R&D agencies to build Internet2, the advanced technology base on which a new generation of applications for research, interactive learning and distance education will be created.
As major stakeholders in the Internet, our institutions believe that the work which you and your colleagues are doing to establish a new structure for management of the Domain Name System and related activities is vital to the health of the Internet. We urge you to maintain the high priority which this matter currently enjoys and to make every effort to adhere to the extremely aggressive timeline presented in the Green Paper.
Taken as a whole, the Green Paper provides a robust blueprint for addressing many current problems with management of Domain Names, and is strongly endorsed by the higher education networking community. We make the following recommendations for revisions to the paper and its proposed implementation plan.
(1) Internet IP numbers and Domain Names are part of a public space which requires public interest stewardship on behalf of all users of the Internet. This fundamental principle is not dealt with adequately in the text of the Green Paper but can and should be made part of the incorporation documents of the new non-profit organization.
(2) The Green Paper, speaking for the U.S. Government, is implicitly creating a de jure property right in Internet names and numbers which has previously existed in de facto form. Much of the controversy over future rights to and use of Internet names and numbers is associated with ambiguity over the nature of such property rights. Educom believes that the rights in question are associated with private use of public assets in much the same manner as television and radio firms are granted licenses to use spectrum. It is neither necessary nor appropriate to create an inalienable private right to such property in order for the Internet to function effectively and efficiently. If the government were to create such a right at this time, and if the future technical and economic evolution of the Internet were to create a substantial public interest requirement for recovery of the names and numbers, this might require great public expense to accomplish. That eventuality can and should be avoided.
(3) The Green Paper is unbalanced in its treatment of private sector and public sector development and use of the Internet. As noted above, research and education, to cite only one public sector constituency, have a significant interest in the successful technical evolution and economic growth of the Internet. The Clinton Administration has initiated and is supporting Internet projects in many Cabinet agencies ( such as TIIAP and ATP in your own department), to promote its use for education, research and to achieve many social and economic benefits beyond electronic commerce. The incorporation documents of the new non-profit organization and the composition of the Board of Trustees and of its various advisory groups must reflect the importance of public sector access to and use of Internet services and technology.
(4) Along with many others in the Internet community, Educom believes that the proposed registry function for Domain Names should be operated on a non-profit basis on behalf of the holders of the names in the respective top level domains. The pairing of a non-profit registry function with a private sector registrar function for the TLD's will best achieve the principles set forth in the Green Paper.
My staff and I would be pleased to assist you in moving forward with the plans outlined in the Green Paper. Please do not hesitate to call on us.
Very truly yours,
Robert C. Heterick, Jr.
cc: Mr. Magaziner