from the maybe-too-late dept.
The Internet Society's own members are now opposing its sale of the .org internet registry to an unknown private equity firm.
The Chapters Advisory Council, the official voice of Internet Society (ISOC) members, will vote this month on whether to approve a formal recommendation that the society "not proceed [with the sale] unless a number of conditions are met."
Those conditions largely comprise the publication of additional details and transparency regarding ISOC's controversial sell-off of .org. Despite months of requests, neither the society nor the proposed purchaser, Ethos Capital, have disclosed critical elements of the deal, including who would actually own the registry if the sale went through.
[...] ISOC – and .org's current operator, the ISOC-controlled Public Interest Registry (PIR) – are still hoping to push DNS overseer ICANN to make a decision on the .org sale before the end of the month. But that looks increasingly unlikely following an aggressive letter from ICANN's external lawyers last week insisting ICANN will take as much time as it feels necessary to review the deal.
The overall lack of transparency around the $1.13bn deal has led California's Attorney General to demand documents relating to the sale – and ISOC's chapters are demanding the same information as a pre-condition to any sale in their proposed advice to the ISOC board.
That information includes: full details of the transaction; a financial breakdown of what Ethos Capital intends to do with .org's 10 million internet addresses; binding commitments on limiting price increases and free speech protections; and publication of the bylaws and related corporate documents for both the replacement to the current registry operator, PIR, and the proposed "Stewardship Council" which Ethos claims will give .org users a say in future decisions.
[...] "There is a feeling amongst chapters that ISOC seems to have disregarded community participation, failed to properly account for the potential community impact, and misread the community mindset around the .ORG TLD," the Chapters Advisory Council's proposed advice to the ISOC board – a copy of which The Register has seen – states.
Although the advisory council has no legal ability to stop ISOC, if the proposed advice is approved by vote, and the CEO and board of trustees push ahead with the sale regardless, it could have severe repercussions for the organization's non-profit status, and would further undermine ISOC's position that the sale will "support the Internet Society's vision that the Internet is for everyone."
The nonprofit Internet Society attracted widespread condemnation late last year after announcing it was going to sell off the Public Interest Registry, a subsidiary that administers the .org domain, to a private equity firm called Ethos Capital. People were particularly alarmed because the move came shortly after ICANN removed price caps on registration and renewal fees for .org domains. That opened the prospect of big price hikes in the coming years.
In a Friday press release, Ethos Capital announced it would voluntarily commit to limit price hikes for the next eight years. But under the new rules, Ethos Capital would still be able to raise prices by 10 percent a year—which would more than double prices over the next eight years. Ethos framed this as a concession to the public, and strictly speaking, a 10 percent price hike limit is better for customers than completely uncapped fees. But 10 percent annual increases are still massive—far more than inflation or plausible increases in the cost of running the infrastructure powering the .org registry.
For comparison, ICANN recently announced that Verisign, the company that administers the .com domain, will be allowed to raise prices by 7 percent per year over the next decade, except for a two-year "pause" after four years of hikes. Those changes, adding up to a 70-percent price hike over 10 years, was enough to trigger alarm among domain registrars who must pass these fees on to their customers.
Ethos Capital's proposed limits are also much more than historical increases in the .org fee. The maximum fee charged by the Public Interest Registry for a domain registration has risen from $6 at the end of 2006 to $9.93 today—an annual growth rate of less than 5 percent.