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ICANN to lift price caps on .net domains

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The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit organization responsible for Internet addresses, quietly agreed to lift wholesale price restrictions on .net registry fees last month when it renewed a contract with VeriSign to run the master database for .net domain names.

Buried in the fine print, the fact has escaped notice until recently. Over the past several days, news of the change has traveled around the Web.

"(It's) a move that may signal ICANN's intent to get out of the business of regulating domain name pricing," noted Internet services firm Netcraft.

ICANN used to cap .net domain fees at either $6 or $4.25, depending on the type of address. Under the new, six-year VeriSign contract, the cap is now $4.25 and that cap will remain in effect until Dec. 31, 2006, after which time all price restrictions expire.

A VeriSign spokesman told Computer Business Review that it's unlikely to raise prices, and would do it only to invest in its infrastructure. The master-registrar has agreed to give six months' notice in advance of any price changes, Netcraft noted.

Netcraft said prices are likely to remain stable because the domain-name market is very competitive. Domain names are practically given away as part of Web hosting packages, the group noted.

Others were less certain. "I'm not yet sure whether it's a change for the good or the bad," wrote Bret Fausett in his Lextext blog. "On the one hand, it gets ICANN out of the messy, non-"technical coordination" business of price control. On the other, will I be able to afford to renew my .net domain names after 2007?"

The $6 price cap will still apply to the more popular .com registry, which VeriSign also controls. That contract expires in November 2007.

By Alorie Gilbert
CNET News.com

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