NeuStar criticized for management of '.us' public launch

Americans have long awaited the public use of the '.us' domain, which up until now has been available only to state governments and libraries. In the first week that NeuStar Inc, the Washington DC-based company that operates the domain, offered it to private parties, over 200,000 domain names were sold.

While being touted as the official internet address of the United States, some believe US citizens have hardly had an opportunity to voice their input on '.us' policy and regulation. NeuStar has drawn sharp criticism from public interest groups, such as the Centre for Democracy and Technology, for its failure to inform internet users of the general availability of '.us' domain names. This, they say, has allowed the domain to become a lucrative business opportunity for those who knew of its existence.

Already, hundreds of thousands of '.us' domain names have been sold to private parties on a first-come, first-served basis, including 'church.us', 'music.us', 'nonprofit.us', 'bank.us' and 'environment.us'. NeuStar allegedly sold these names before considering the voice of the people, who may have wanted such names to be reserved for the good of the nation. Critics are also deeply bothered that NeuStar created its list of reserved names (eg, 'military.us' and 'tax.us') with little outside input.

NeuStar has also been charged with failure to develop polices in a way that takes the interests of US internet users to heart. Critics claim NeuStar's creation of a '.US' Policy Council just one day before the domain went public was a belated move for a company that promised to develop open policies and procedures with a high degree of accountability to the internet community. In addition, the council is reportedly dominated by commercial and operator interests, thereby further quieting the individual consumer voice.

In a time when US patriotism is strong and the voice of the United States is being heard around the world, it seems ironic that the grand opening of the '.us' domain to the public comes in the middle of the night, without tried and true policies to protect public and individual consumer interests.

Kristin Allen, Manatt Phelps & Phillips, Los Angeles

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