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Get ready for price hikes up to 10% annually after sale of .org registry [arstechnica.com]:
The nonprofit Internet Society attracted widespread condemnation late last year after announcing it was going to sell off the Public Interest Registry [arstechnica.com], 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 [arstechnica.com] 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 [businesswire.com] 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 [arstechnica.com] 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 [arstechnica.com] 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.
It's true that past ICANN agreements with the Public Interest Registry—including the ones in 2006 [icann.org] and 2013 [icann.org]—have allowed fee hikes of up to 10 percent a year. The Public Interest Registry has historically not taken the full increase allowed under ICANN's rules. Until now the Public Interest Registry was part of a nonprofit organization committed to promoting the public interest online.
Ethos Capital, on the other hand, is a private company that may not care about anything more than maximizing its own profits. So it seems more likely that the firm will take the full 10 percent price increase each year.
Fortunately, there's a way for .org owners to protect themselves—at least for a while. Domains can be renewed for up to 10 years at current prices. So if you own a .org domain, you might want to extend your registration through the end of the decade.
In addition to the limit on price hikes, Ethos says it will also create a ".org Stewardship council" that will have a binding legal right to veto certain changes to the way the .org domain is operated—including on issues related to freedom of speech and the privacy of registrants' data.