PLEASE NOTE: This document, concerning the Enhancement of the .us Domain Space, is a Request for Public Comment. Though it is not intended or expected, should any discrepancy occur between the document here and that published in the Federal Register, the Federal Register publication controls. The paper is being made available through the Internet solely as a means to facilitate the public's access to this document.
Billing Code 3510-60-P
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
NATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION
Docket No. 980212036-8172-03
Request for Comments on the Enhancement of the .us Domain Space
AGENCY: National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Commerce.
ACTION: Notice, Request for Public Comment
SUMMARY: The Department of Commerce requests comments on future expansion and administration of the .us domain space. The registry for .us domain space, administered by the Information Sciences Institute at the University of California, is currently administered as a locality based hierarchy in which second level domain space is allocated to states and U.S. territories. The .us domain space has typically been used by branches of state and local government, although some commercial names have been assigned. This notice, through a series of questions, requests public comment on issues relating to future administration, and possible expansion, of the .us domain space.
DATES: Comments must be received by September 3, 1998.
[Please note: The public comment period has been extended to October 5, 1998]
ADDRESS: The Department invites the public to submit written comments in paper or electronic form. Comments may be mailed to Karen Rose, Office of International Affairs (OIA), National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Room 4701, U.S. Department of Commerce, 14th and Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20230. Paper submissions should include a version on diskette in ASCII, Word Perfect (please specify version), or Microsoft Word (please specify version) format.
Comments submitted in electronic form may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Electronic comments should be submitted in the formats specified above.
Comments should be numbered and organized in response to the questions set forth in this document.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karen Rose, NTIA/OIA, (202) 482-0365
On February 20, 1998, NTIA published "Improvement of Technical Management of Internet Names and Addresses; Proposed Rule," 63 Fed. Reg. 8825 (1998) (also posted at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/domainname/domainname130.htm ). The notice analyzed issues of generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs), including the future of gTLD registries and the possible creation of new gTLDs. Section VII. D. briefly addressed the national or "country-code" domain (ccTLD) for the United States, .us as follows:
At present, the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority at the University of Southern California) administers .us as a locality based hierarchy in which second-level domain space is allocated to states and US territories. This name space is further subdivided into localities. General registration under localities is performed on an exclusive basis by private firms that have requested delegation from IANA. The .us name space has typically been used by branches of state and local governments, although some commercial names have been assigned. Where registration for a locality has not been delegated, the IANA itself serves as the registrar.
Some in the Internet community have suggested that the pressure for unique identifiers in the .com gTLD could be relieved if commercial use of the .us space was encouraged. Commercial users and trademark holders, however, find the current locality-based system too cumbersome and complicated for commercial use. Expanded use of the .us TLD could alleviate some of the pressure for new generic TLDs and reduce conflicts between American companies and others vying for the same domain name.
Clearly, there is much opportunity for enhancing the .us domain space, and the .us domain could be expanded in many ways without displacing the current geopolitical structure. Over the next few months, the U.S. government will work with the private sector and state and local governments to determine how best to make the .us domain more attractive to commercial users. It may also be appropriate to move the gTLDs traditionally reserved for U.S. government use (i.e. .gov and .mil), into a reformulated .us ccTLD.
The U.S. government will further explore and seek public input on these issues through a separate Request for Comment on the evolution of the .us name space. However, we welcome any preliminary comments at this time.(1) 
On June 10, 1998, NTIA published a Statement of Policy on DNS administration,"Management of Internet Names and Addresses," 63 Fed. Reg. 31741 (1998) (also posted at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/domainname/6_5_98dns.htm).  The document summarized the responses to the .us comment solicitation as follows:
Many commenters suggested that the pressure for unique identifiers in the .com gTLD could be relieved if commercial use of the .us space was encouraged. Commercial users and trademark holders, however, find the current locality-based system too cumbersome and complicated for commercial use. They called for expanded use of the .us TLD to alleviate some of the pressure for new generic TLDs and reduce conflicts between American companies and others vying for the same domain name. Most commenters support an evolution of the .us domain designed to make this name space more attractive to commercial users.
The document also restated the U.S. Government's intent to request public comment on the future of .us.(3) 
While administration of .us is managed by the same personnel as the IANA services, it does not fall under the DARPA/IANA contract and should therefore be considered a separate service of the Information Sciences Institute (ISI) at the University of Southern California.
We are now formally soliciting public comment on the future of the .us domain space. Respondents should find it useful to review the full text of "Improvement of Technical Management of Internet Names and Addresses" and "Management of Internet Names and Addresses" for general background information on the Internet domain name system and its management. Respondents should also find useful RFC 1480: "The .US Domain" (http://www.isi.edu/in-notes/rfc1480.txt ), as well as ISI's posted policies for .us (http://www.isi.edu/in-notes/usdnr/) for information regarding current the structure and management of the .us domain.
The Statement of Policy "Management of Internet Names and Addresses" invited the international community of private sector Internet stakeholders to work together to form a new, private, not-for-profit corporation to manage DNS functions. The new corporation would gradually assume various responsibilities for the administration of the domain name system now performed by or on behalf of the U.S. Government. The document noted, however, that national governments would continue to have authority to manage or establish policy for their own ccTLDs.
Other country-code domains are managed by a variety of entities, either non-profit or for-profit, but almost always on an exclusive basis. In many cases, the registry remains delegated to the same university or research institute to which it was assigned in the early days of the Internet. In a few cases, the assigned entity is an ISP cooperative (e.g., Nominet, the registry for .uk). In virtually all cases (with the notable exception of Nominet), the registry maintenance and registration functions are handled by the same entity and not treated separately. In the event of disputes over the assignment of country-code registries, ISI defers to national governments, some of which operate their registry through a public agency.
Many of the allocation and governance issues under .us and other country-codes are ultimately analogous to the issues in gTLDs. The early availability and extensive use of gTLDs by U.S. companies, however, allowed .us to develop separately under a hierarchical geopolitical structure. By contrast, other country-code TLDs typically offer second-level domains on a more or less open and unrestricted basis or allow unrestricted third-level domains under a few two-character sector codes, such as .co for commercial or .ac for academic. To our knowledge, no other country-code domain is managed under a geopolitically ordered regime similar to .us.
Some have suggested using domain space for purposes such as zoning or credentialing. With respect to zoning for example, there have been suggestions that creating a domain for adult entertainment could facilitate filtering while reducing liability risk for those businesses that register under it. Likewise, a wide range of credentialed domains are possible, i.e., domains in which the registrant warrants that it meets some standard or in which a third party authority (e.g., a trade organization, a licensing agency, a bank) certifies the identity or characteristics of the registrant. It may be desirable to delegate such domains to a certifying entity, or to an entity that sets and maintains the standard in the case of self-certifying registrants. To our knowledge, no national registry has attempted such a regime of industry identifiers or other classifications at the second or lower levels.
Questions for Public Comment
While the public is free to comment on any issue related to the .us domain space, the Department is particularly interested in receiving input from the questions provided below:
- How should the present geographic structure of .us be extended or modified? What changes should be made in RFC 1480 or the posted policies for .us?
- What are the benefits and costs of different options for allocating second-level domains under .us? How should the allocation of such second-level domains be decided and administered? What should be the terms of delegation?
- Specifically, should special-purpose second-level domains be created under .us? What are the benefits and costs of creating particular special-purpose domains (e.g., industry-specific, credentialing, zoning)? How should such domains be created and administered? Are there reasons to map names and other addressing and identification systems (e.g., postal addresses, telephone numbers, longitude and latitude, uniform resource numbers or others) into .us?
- Alternatively, should .us be treated as an unrestricted top-level domain like .com or should one or more specific second-level domains such as .co.us or .com.us be used for unrestricted assignment of domain names (as in .com)? How should such unrestricted domains be administered and by whom?
- How should conflicting proposals and claims to manage or use .us subdomains be resolved? Who should have responsibility for coordinating policy for .us over the long term? What public oversight, if any, should be provided?
- What rules and procedures should be used to minimize conflicts between trademarks and domain names under .us? Should this problem be treated differently at international, national, state, and local levels? Should special privileges be accorded to famous trademarks, such as a right to register directly under .us or a procedure to preempt the use of the trademark in a range of subdomains?
- What role should states play in the allocation and registration of their respective subdomains? Should commercial names be permitted under states as third-level domains? Or should such third-level domains be limited to special categories such as domestic corporations or other state-licensed entities? Should states and localities operate registries and accept registrations directly? To what extent should state policies be coordinated and through what mechanisms and procedures?
- How well has the system of delegating third-level domains (localities) to private registrars on an exclusive basis worked? How could it be improved? Should registrars be accountable to their delegated localities (just as country-code registries are accountable to national governments)? Should registrars be limited to a single jurisdiction? Should multiple competing registrars be able to register under any local, state, or special-purpose domain under .us as in the plan proposed for generic Top-Level Domains?
- How should the operation of the .us registry be supported? Should uniform registration (and renewal) fees be instituted? Should registrars contribute to the operation of the registry?
- What are best management and allocation practices for country-code domains? What practices should be emulated or avoided?
- By what type of entity should .us be administered? Private, governmental, or quasi-governmental? For profit or not-for-profit? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using one type of entity (private, public, for profit, not-for-profit) over the others?
Acting Chief Counsel