Domainz debate begins to boil ahead of AGM

The Domainz board has spent thousands of dollars on a Deloitte review aimed at rebutting an Isocnz working group report which favours opening Domainz to competition.

The Domainz board has spent thousands of dollars on a Deloitte review aimed at rebutting an Isocnz working group report which favours opening Domainz to competition.

The emergence of the Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu review, which is appended to a Domainz board response to the working group report, is likely to further raise the temperature of the debate around Domainz' conduct, especially given that Domainz has consistently resisted pressure for an independent review of its $700,000 new registry system.

In the run-up to the Isocnz annual general meeting this Friday, a group including a number of prominent local Internet identities has targeted the AGM for a change to the way .nz is managed - and appears to have been welcomed in principle by the chair of Isocnz, Peter Dengate Thrush.

The ad-hoc group, which is likely to be represented in strength at the AGM, has posted a Website which, according to one backer, former Isocnz councillor David Farrar "highlights and backgrounds the issues we want to see progress on".

"I have viewed with growing alarm the bad reputation Domainz and by association Isocnz has had within the Internet community of ISPs businesses and users," says Farrar. "Much of the criticism has been justified in my opinion. Many others have shared this alarm and we have been encouraging people to join Isocnz so that their voices can be heard at the AGM.

"A number of concerned people from a diverse range of industry and other backgrounds share a belief that the AGM needs to set a new direction for Isocnz and Domainz, one that introduces a Shared Registration System into the .nz name space and one that has Domainz and Isocnz working more co-operatively with the Internet community.

"A number of motions have been tabled for the AGM which will help achieve this. We also are encouraging people who share some or all of these concerns to stand for election to Isocnz's council."

In a media release on Friday morning headed 'Isocnz rejects fear of capture', Dengate Thrush said the council had noted a jump in new memberships ahead of the AGM and that it "welcomes the debate and we are pleased to see the Internet community showing such interest in our activities. This is a very healthy sign for an organisation which is vested with maintaining an open and uncapturable internet service in this country."

In the statement Dengate Thrush rejected claims - although he did not say who had made them - that "so many signups from a single interest group represents possible capture of the not for profit society which owns and manages the business in the public interest."

Dengate Thrush and Isocnz executive director Sue Leader were both on the Isocnz working group led by Victoria University Professor John Hine, although Dengate Thrush subsequently stepped down to avoid a conflict of interest.

The Deloitte review paid for by Domainz questions the competence and impartiality of Isocnz working group members and dismisses Internet mailing lists and newsgroups as a "rather arcane forum" whose participants have too much time on their hands. But its authors appear to have misunderstood key elements of the debate.

For example, it criticises the working group for failing to stick to its "terms of reference" in focusing on the desirability of an ICANN-style shared registry system. But the group's terms of reference dictate exactly such a focus. The Deloitte authors appear to have confused a resolution from last year's Isocnz AGM with the terms of reference.

Deloitte also says that Domainz is not principally a commercial registrar, in that it only interacts with 5% of name holders. Yet Domainz directly invoices 85% of .nz nameholders and since the implementation of is new registry system has been sending logins, passwords and advisory emails to 100% of nameholders.

Farrar, who describes Domainz' commissioning of the review as "the final straw", is critical of the way it seeks to play down criticism of Domainz - and of the way it attacks the working group for not surveying other stakeholders.

"The paragraph that basically suggests people on Usenet are arcane geeks is insulting," says Farrar. " It ignores that much criticism has been on other mailing lists such as the NZ Network Operators List which almost every ISP in NZ has staff participating in. Their stereotypes about Usenet users are totally without factual analysis and they break every rule they accuse the working group of breaking.

"It is worth noting that Isocnz Council in its draft Schedule A actually wanted regular surveys of ISPs and name holders as to satisfaction with Domainz, and Domainz itself opposed this. So for them to then complain that the level of unhappiness is qualitative not quantitative is hypocrisy."

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