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Why you need to stop VeriSign from increasing dot-com prices

ACCRA, Ghana, February 11th, 2020,/Gris Global-org/ The planet's 140 million dot-com addresses are going to get significantly more expensive to renew over the next decade thanks to a contract signed between dot-com operator Verisign and ICANN.

New dot-com domains are also set to cost more.

When ICANN announced that it would remove historical price caps for the .org top-level domain (TLD) from the Public Interest Registry (PIR) contract many didn't see what was going to happen in the near future.

Removing this price cap for these legacy (pre-2012) TLDs could lead to large and unpredictable price increases. Not only will the action harm Internet users, it will also stifle innovation but today that's the exact situation Internet users will have to face going forward because ICANN has explicitly ignored to stand by the users it once cherished most.

ICANN announced significant changes to the contract it has with Verisign, Inc. on January 3, 2020, to operate the top-level domain .COM. That means that in December 2020 – and for each of the next four years until the contract expires in 2024 – Verisign will be able to increase the price of dot-coms domains by 7 per cent.

ICANN and Verisign made all these changes in secret, without consulting or incorporating feedback from the ICANN community or Internet users. In a document sighted by GrisGlobal.org, officially, ICANN was to sign off on any price increases issued by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and Versign but in the long and contentious history between the two organizations, ICANN has always agreed to Verisign demands – and there is nothing Verisign takes more seriously than its dot-com money machine. Plus ICANN also benefits financially from dot-com price increases.

Dot-com sits outside the norms of the domain name market due to its standard-bearer status. Every price increase is pure money in Verisign's pockets, especially considering that the cost of running an internet registry has fallen significantly over time.

Also, Verisign runs a monopoly with little real competition and such a move would be in the public interest given how widespread dot-com domain usage is.

The only people that lose out are the millions of consumers and businesses that will have to pay an additional few dollars for each of their dot-com domains.

Quids In
In the document sighted by GrisGlobal.org, the contract makes repeat mention of how the new deal "creates a new commitment to content neutrality in the Domain Name System (DNS)" – which no one has been able to make much sense of.

The internet is about to get a whole lot more expensive if consumers ignore to register their displeasure.

In its proposed contract change, ICANN used the addition of all these new top-level domains to argue for removing price caps. "This change will not only allow the .org renewal agreement to better conform with the base registry agreement, but also takes into consideration the maturation of the domain name market and the goal of treating the Registry Operator equitably with registry operators of new gTLDs and other legacy gTLDs utilizing the base registry agreement," the organization explains in its public comment explanation.

ICANN also proposed the same change to two other top-level domains: .info and .biz, which are run to by two of the biggest internet registries, Afilias and Neustar respectively.

Registrars started emailing their customer urging them to oppose the plan – which was out for public comment until Monday, April 29, 2019.

The demand that ICANN REFUSE a potential price increase on .COM domains is a must simply because currently, these changes will have a significant impact on the Internet for years to come, and only ICANN and Verisign have participated in this decision which allows VeriSign to:
  1. Increase wholesale price of dot-com:
Verisign will be allowed to increase the wholesale price to registrars for .COM domains by 7% each year in 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023. After a two year “freeze”, Verisign can increase prices by 7% annually during 2026-2029, then another two year “freeze”. This cycle will continue, meaning that within 10 years, .COM domains could cost approximately 70% more than the current wholesale price of $7.85 — and the sky is the limit.
It is not clear how much of these price increases registrars will pass along to consumers, but it is likely that most of these increases will be paid by domain name registrants. The contract does allow for other price increases for certain extraordinary situations, so it is possible prices could increase more than anticipated. 
  1. Operate as a Domain Registrar: ICANN also had rules that the operator of a TLD could not operate a domain name registrar. Although in 2012 ICANN allowed operators of new gTLDs to have domain name registrars, it did not apply to Verisign. The new contract will allow Verisign to operate its own registrar, except for selling .COM domain names itself. To circumvent this, it is also possible that Verisign could act as a reseller of .COM domains, through another registrar.
To make your concerns known, you have until February 14, 2020 to register your displeasure for the dot-com agreement. The Public Comment period is still open; submit your own personalized comment using ICANN’s form at https://www.icann.org/public-comments/com-amendment-3-2020-01-03-en/mail_form.

Also show your support by signing this petition.

For inquiries: info@grisglobal.org.
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