Shared domain name trial gets slow start

An initial test aimed at ending Network Solutions' monopoly over domain-name registration hasn't started out smoothly, according to several companies involved in the process. Five new test registrars were announced last month for a test to run until June 24. But several weeks into the Shared Registry System test some participants say they've just received the necessary software to begin.

An initial test aimed at ending Network Solutions' monopoly over domain-name registration hasn't started out smoothly, according to several companies involved in the process.

Five new test registrars -- America Online, the Internet Council of Registrars (CORE), France Telecom/Oleane, Melbourne IT of Australia and Register.com -- were announced last month, for a test to run until June 24.

However, several weeks into the Shared Registry System test, some participants say they've just received necessary software to get the test up and running.

France Telecom's Oleane had trouble getting the products to set up the registry, receiving them May 6, and was finally operational yesterday, said Jean-Michel Planche, president of Oleane, a subsidiary of France Telecom. "We've had some delay in the shipment of products [from NSI], but I don't think it's bad will on their part," Planche said. However, "if this gets worse and we feel it's bad will, then we'll turn to the government and the press," he added.

Oleane isn't the only test bed experiencing delays. Both CORE and Register.com have encountered problems.

While CORE has received the integral parts of the domain-name system slower than it wanted to, it doesn't think NSI has subverted the process, said Ken Stubbs, chairman of CORE. But "they've certainly haven't made it easier for us," Stubbs said.

Sascha Mornell, a spokesman for Register.com, said it has run into problems, but declined to elaborate what they were. Register.com, a division of Forman Interactive Corp. in New York, isn't registering domains under the test system yet, but is "furiously working to get the system up and running," Mornell said. There is no timetable for it, but Register.com is "very hopeful" it will happen soon, he said.

AOL and Melbourne IT declined to comment on the test-bed process. The Department of Commerce, which is negotiating with NSI on ending the government-backed registry monopoly, didn't return calls by press time.

According to NSI, all of the registrars have received the Shared Registry System software as of yesterday, said Brian O'Shaughnessy, a spokesman for NSI. As for any delays, it does take several days to send products overseas, he said.

NSI "is looking forward to the competition" when its control over .com, .org and .net domain names is shared with others, O'Shaughnessy added.

The test-phase problems are probably due in part to high expectations, said Rob Enderle, an analyst at Giga Information Group. The government might have set up a timetable and penalties for missed deadlines to avoid possible delays.

Following the test phase slated to end next month, 29 additional companies are scheduled to be accredited to handle domain-name registration as well.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is overseeing the accreditation of the new registrars for competition. When asked about delays implementing the test phase, an ICANN spokeswoman responded only that the five test-bed registrars have agreed to a contract for shared software. She declined further comment.

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