On the removal of price caps for legacy domains

(A mirror of my public comment on ICANN’s proposed renewal of the .org registry agreement, which included a widely-protested provision to remove the 10% limit on the price increases that the registry could charge for registrations and renewals.)

Like many others who have already submitted comments on this proposal, I have grave concerns about the provision to remove the price caps on registry fees for .info and .org top level domains. (I refrain from commenting on .biz as I do not own any such domains nor do I personally frequent websites using this TLD, but my concerns are applicable there also.) I say this not only as the owner of several domains (for whom these potential price increases have a direct monetary impact), but also more generally as a user of Web sites and Internet services. There is already growing social concern about the centralization of access to information with large corporations, who increasingly mediate the average person’s experiences and interactions on the Internet. The Domain Name System provides a valuable part of the antidote to this problem: it allows individuals to set up their own corner of the Internet as they wish, largely unbeholden to anyone else; and allows anyone else to easily locate it on demand. This latter aspect is what makes pricing of domain names critical: because the domain name is the identifier used to locate a site or service, abandoning it breaks the ability for others to find it easily, and moving domain names requires rebuilding all links and trust from scratch, a long and tedious process which can never be fully completed. If a registry is allowed to raise fees in an arbitrary and unbounded manner, many of these registrants will decide that the expense is no longer worth it and abandon the registration–or even be forced to as the costs become unaffordable.

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