Trump Administration Abandons Obama-Era Price Controls in Verisign’s .COM Registry Agreement

Despite a campaign from some in the domain name industry led by the Internet Commerce Association, the NTIA and Verisign announced Thursday they had agreed to extend and modify the Cooperative Agreement with steep registry fees to be expected. “These modifications”, the NTIA says, “are in line with policy priorities of the Trump Administration.”

“The changes create a new commitment to content neutrality in the Domain Name System (DNS), provide market-based pricing flexibility, and reduce the regulatory burden on Verisign.” The agreement runs through until November 2024 and automatically renews for 6 year terms unless the Department of Commerce, under which the NTIA comes, gives written advice.

The 35th amendment [pdf] to the agreement between the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and Verisign, states that “Verisign will operate the .com registry in a content neutral manner with a commitment to participate in ICANN processes. To that end, NTIA looks forward to working with Verisign and other ICANN stakeholders in the coming year on trusted notifier programs to provide transparency and accountability in the .com top level domain.”

The amendment repeals Obama-era price controls and provides Verisign the pricing flexibility to change its .com Registry Agreement with ICANN to increase wholesale .com prices. Specifically, the flexibility permits Verisign to request ICANN to allow up to 7% increase in the prices for .com domain in each of the last four years of the six-year term of the .com Registry Agreement. That is the fee will remain frozen until November 2020 for this agreement. The changes also affirm that Verisign may not vertically integrate or operate as a registrar in the .com top level domain.

One of the reasonings for abandoning price controls given was that that “ccTLDs, new gTLDs, and the use of social media have created a more dynamic DNS marketplace”.

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