Alternate Roots Issues
Paper for Discussion
7 May 2001

By Grant Forsyth, BC Rep

Alternate Roots Issues
Paper for Discussion
7 May 2001

By Grant Forsyth, BC Rep

I have noted the discussions that has been circulating on the NC mail list on the matter of Alternate Roots and the suggestion that there be a discussion on the next audio. I thought it would be useful to make some opening observations and proposed policy directions that could form the basis for that discussion.

Some founding principles

In considering the question of alternate roots, it should be taken as given that:

  1. A unique naming scheme is an absolute requirement for an orderly and stable Internet. See http://www.icann.org/correspondence/iab-tech-comment-27sept99.htm (is there any further update on this technical view?)
  2. ICANN and parties in support of ICANN have no ability or wish to influence the operations of other enterprises outside the purview of ICANN - such as the Pacific and Atlantic Roots
  3. While "increasing competition" is one of the objectives of ICANN this must necessarily be restricted to address those operations operating within the sphere of ICANN's responsibility.
  4. ICANN does need to actively manage the Internet space that it has responsibility for and the DNS within it, in order to maintain stability.

I would contend that the above four points do NOT need discussion, hence our discussion can focus on what policy directions we might propose to the ICANN Board in order to meet these principles.

Elaboration on the need for principle 1

I think it might be instructive to build the case for principle 1. There is enough that is confusing and concept challenging about the Internet for most businesses and individuals, that removing any added confusion derived from conflicting or misrepresented naming schemes has to be hugely beneficial. Leaving aside issues of fraudulent misrepresentation, there is simply the burden of time wasting for users in not reaching the address that they expect to reach. For businesses there is the additional issue of ensuring that your trademarks are properly protected and represented on the Internet.

Possible Policy Directions

Working from the above "givens", it now behoves the NC to articulate policy in order that the ICANN Board can formulate plans and processes to ensure Principle 4 above is implemented. I suggest the following for discussion:

  1. Given 2 above, ICANN should not seek to "coordinate" anything with any other party that chooses to do its own thing in its own space. Other parties should be left to develop their own naming scheme for use in their own name space. If they choose to implement naming schemes that are similar, or more importantly, confusingly similar, that should not be of any concern to either their users or users in the ICANN DNS space as the two naming spaces will be operated quite separately.
  2. ICANN should not seek to limit naming schemes that other operators might choose to develop in their private space, to do so might be construed as being anti-competitive.
  3. ICANN, on behalf of its stakeholders, should take as many active measures as it can to maintain the stability of the DNS that it is responsible for. Such measure might include:
    1. ICANN should include requirements for specific performance in contracts with those parties who require authorisation from ICANN to operate in the ICANN DNS space, EG Authorised Registries and Registrars be required to not misrepresent other name structures as being related to or accessible from within the ICANN DNS space.

      Note: This is NOT to suggest ICANN seek to restrict the ability of a Registry or Registrar from also working with an organisation other than ICANN.

    2. ICANN should consider the merits of forming contractual relationships with other parties where there is no current formal contractual relationship. This would be with the express purpose of enhancing stability and reducing confusion. Such parties might include non gTLD registrars, ISPs, web browser providers, even individual commercial domain name holders. This should be a positive win-win relationship.
    3. ICANN should, with the assistance of its wide stakeholder base, promote the unique qualities and benefits of operating in the Internet Space for which it has management responsibility.

The "problem" of new.net

With regards to the "problem" of new.net, I suggest a similar variant to that above. In my view, the issue with new.net is not that they are creating sub-domains that are similar to gTLDs. They should be free to do so, just as ccTLDs should be free to do so. The problem is that it appears that new.net is misrepresenting how these domains eg, www.your.biz.new.net, are going to be able to be promoted eg. as www.your.biz and then working with ISPs (anyone else?) to have them conspire with new.net to support this misrepresentation by way of corrupting the unique resolution of truncated - hence not unique - names.

Again ICANN should be actively managing a resolution to the problem along the lines of:

  1. Strengthening contracts with Registries and Registrars to include specific performance clauses on the misrepresentation of a gTLD.
  2. Creating the same positive "authorisation" process with ISPs and others, based upon their support not to misrepresent and mis-resolve unique domain names.

As an aside

I take as a useful model, in developing my thinking on the ICANN DNS and anyone else's DNS, is that of telephone numbering.

The ITU is responsible for ensuring a globally unique numbering scheme operates for its constituent members (those countries that are members of the ITU or who choose to abide by its rules). In so doing, the ITU is the sole manager and issuer of country codes eg +44 for the UK, +64 for NZ. The country code is allocated to Government authorised body (NOTE: The only reason that the Government comes into play here is a quirk of history and that telephone numbering is generally geographically constrained - I am not suggesting that Governments are a necessary element in the allocating of ccTLDs). The duly authorised holder of a country code will then be free to develop the sub numbering scheme, eg, area codes, toll free codes, local number ranges, etc, within a very high level overall number length limitation.

While all PSTN (public switched telephone network) operators develop their own numbering schemes within the ITU and authorised government numbering management authority, to ensure the PSTN numbering scheme is unique, they are also free to develop their own - and quite likely conflicting - private numbering schemes for their VPN (virtual private networks). Each operator is required to manage the interface between their VPN and the PSTN so that their clients do not have any "confusing conflicts". They most certainly do not represent to either their VPN users or the users of another PSTN, that a customer's VPN number is contactable from another PSTN.


Grant Forsyth
Manager Industry & Regulatory Affairs
CLEAR Communications Ltd
Private Bag 92143 Auckland
ph +64 9 912 5759
fx +64 9 912 4788
Mobile (021) 952 007
email grant.forsyth@clear.co.nz

Information from:
DNSO Names Council