NSI confirms it is being investigated over domain name practices

Network Solutions Inc., the company with an exclusive right to administer the major top-level Internet domains, has admitted it is the subject of an anti-trust investigation by the US Department of Justice. NSI's parent company was obliged to include the fact that the DOJ has asked for information and documents in an SEC filing accompanying a new share offering.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked Network Solutions Inc. for information and documents in an antitrust investigation regarding Internet domain name registration, according to a company filing.

Network Solutions revealed the DOJ's request in a July 3 filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for an initial public offering (IPO). The company, whose parent company received the request June 27, is not "aware of the scope or nature of the investigation," and it "cannot predict whether a civil action will ultimately be filed by the DOJ or by private litigants as a result of the DOJ investigation," according to the filing.

The DOJ can confirm only that its "antitrust division is looking at the possibility of anticompetitive practices in the Internet address registration industry," says Gina Talamona, a DOJ spokeswoman. The agency will not identify any specific company or companies it is investigating, nor will it confirm the details revealed in Network Solutions' filing, she said.

Under an agreement with the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), Network Solutions is currently exclusively responsible for registering and administering second-level Internet domain names for the .com, .org, .edu, .net, and .gov top-level domains. But that could change, given that proposals are brewing for introducing competition into the domain name registration process. And the NSF does not plan to renew its agreement with Network Solutions, nor does it plan to award the agreement to another company, according to Network Solutions' SEC filing.

Network Solutions was already the target of a civil antitrust lawsuit filed by PGP Media Inc. over the domain naming issue earlier this year. That suit is pending, according to the SEC filing.

A Network Solutions official had no further comment on the Justice Department request, citing SEC regulations.

Network Solutions, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Science Applications International Corp. in Herndon, Virginia, can be reached on the World Wide Web at http://www.netsol.com/.

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