European country code top-level domain (ccTLD) registries could stop payments to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) if that governing body does not commit to a service agreement, a representative of the organisation of European registries said Thursday.
"Basically, we want to know what we are paying for," said Bart Boswinkel, a member of the executive committee of the Council of European National Top-Level Domain Registries (Centr) and general manager of the Dutch national domain registry.
The registries that handle top-level domains pay fees that are used to operate ICANN. Centr members SIDN (the Netherlands), DENIC (Germany) and Nominet (U.K.) each contributed US$85,000 to ICANN last year, Boswinkel said.
There are a number of issues, but Centr's main point involves the management of the Internet's 13 root servers. These servers contain name server information for all of the world's top-level domains. Verisign manages one of these servers, while the others are dispersed and maintained by volunteers.
"The Internet will break if the root servers fail. We would like to know how these root servers are managed, what the operational agreements are and how they are secured. We want to guarantee a reasonable root server operation, because our service depends on the root servers," Boswinkel said.
"We have not had trouble with the system, but ICANN is responsible for it and we are supposed to contribute to ICANN. We want a service agreement in return," he said. "Centr members might withhold payments to ICANN if we don't get such an agreement."
However, Annie Renard of AFNIC, the French registry, said there has been some trouble with the root servers.
"There were some delays changing technical information on the IP (Internet protocol) address of the DNS servers for some ccTLDs. We need a good response time and performance," Renard wrote in an e-mail response to questions from IDG News Service.
The agreement between a ccTLD registry and ICANN must contain a section about the security and stability of the root, according to Renard.
"The root is crucial to the Internet community as without it the system will break down and the customer domains will go down. Therefore the TLDs need to have insurance about the stability and an agreement on the service level," Renard wrote.
The issue of possible security problems with root servers was broached at an ICANN meeting in November in light of the focus on such matters after the September 11 attacks in the U.. Various ICANN members and registry representatives said then that they do not think there is much of a security problem related to the root servers. Still, the European registries are demanding to know how their money is being used.
ICANN and the European registries, which manage the country domains, such as .uk and .de, have been working to formalize their relationships. The system of voluntary contributions from the European registries to ICANN is to be converted to set payments.
The European registries don't oppose a formal relationship, but expect to get service for their money. The topic was discussed at a meeting of Centr and ICANN officials in Luxembourg in December.
"In Luxembourg for the first time we talked about what we want from each other. We had only been shoving draft contracts back and forth until then," said Boswinkel, who attended the meeting.
ICANN is apprehensive about signing agreements because it could mean the organisation is liable when things go wrong, Boswinkel said, adding that he expects it to be a while before a definitive agreement can be reached.
"With an agreement you are liable, with a memorandum of understanding you aren't. This is a legal matter that will have to be worked out and it will take time," he said, adding that ICANN has to come to an agreement with each individual ccTLD registry, because Centr can't sign agreements on behalf of its members.