InternetNZ considers certification authority role

But InternetNZ President declines to comment on allocated funds

InternetNZ may seek additional income streams to complement its main revenue from the dividend on domain-name fees, at a time when it is under pressure for a fee reduction.

A line in the 2006-7 budget, put before a series of membership information meetings last week allocates $5,000 for “Cert[ification] Authority Scoping”. President Colin Jackson, however, declines to comment on the record about the possibility that InternetNZ might consider acting as a certification authority for a public key infrastructure (PKI). The line “represents an item of business that InternetNZ might explore in future,” is all he will say.

A PKI permits an individual to have a digital signature, attested by a trusted third party as linked to that person’s identity, or an organisation to set up signatures for its customers. The integrity of the authorising party’s key is attested by another independent authority, and so on. The Certification Authority (CA) is an establishment at the top of the certifying “tree”, ultimately responsible directly or indirectly for certifying all keys.

Previous attempts to make a master CA for New Zealand a paying proposition have met with little success.

The first of the InternetNZ membership meetings, in Wellington, brought questions from .nz oversight committee (NZOC) head Frank March about the level of income from domain-name registration fees.

March asked whether InternetNZ “has received advice that it would be useful, efficacious and just if the domain name fee were reduced.” Jackson confirmed that NZOC had presented a suggestion of this kind to the council four weeks before the meeting.

March suggests that as the sole wholesale source of domain names through the central registry service it owns, InternetNZ might attract criticism for unfair use of a monopoly power.

March asked for council’s response to the fee-decrease suggestion. “Council considered the suggestion,” Jackson replied, “but decided it would lead to a reduction in InternetNZ’s budget or an unacceptable drain on the society’s reserves.”

There followed a discussion on possible supplementary sources of income, parts of which were closed to the media.

March asked whether domain name owners had been polled on their reaction to use of the income for purposes other than managing the .nz domain space. Executive director Keith Davidson replied that a sample of holders had been polled and 85% had agreed that they were happy with as much as $6 per name per year being devoted to such purposes.

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