Private Company To Run .us Domain

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By: Anick Jesdanun, AP Internet Writer

(AP) Patriotism is about to get easier online.

The Commerce Department selected NeuStar Inc. on Monday to run domain names ending in “.us.” With the announcement comes the ability to get non-geographic addresses such as “clothingstore.us,” rather than the more cumbersome “clothingstore.los-angeles.ca.us.”

The new rules, expected to take effect early next year, are designed to get more use out of “.us.” Country code suffixes such as “.fr” for France have been sources of national pride worldwide, but in the United States it is the forgotten stepchild compared with “.com.”

NeuStar officials are hoping to change that attitude and said recent terrorism events may give “.us” even more of a boost.

“The fact is right now … American identification is of increased importance,” said Jeff Ganek, NeuStar’s chairman and chief executive.

Also Monday, the department announced a five-year agreement with Educause, a nonprofit consortium, to run the “.edu” suffix.

Community colleges will be able to claim “.edu” names beginning Nov. 12. In the past, “.edu” was limited primarily to four-year colleges and universities in the United States.

The “.us” domain name will be restricted to U.S. residents and companies or organizations that operate in the United States, though the system will rely partly on self-certification and isn’t foolproof.

Many details also remain unresolved.

Public-interest groups worry that “.us” — historically the domain of state or local governments, nonprofit organizations, and schools — will become yet another frontier dominated by commercial interests.

“A lot of people are very supportive of opening ‘.us’ for more commercial, small business, and individual use,” said Alan Davidson, associate director for the Center for Democracy and Technology. “What’s tricky is how you make sure the policies … are fair and equitable.”

NeuStar officials said existing “.us” users will get to keep their names, and local entities that now assign geographically oriented names like “anyname.los-angeles.ca.us” can continue doing so.

In addition, a number of names have been set aside, including “kids.us” as a possible children’s channel and “parks.us” as a central resource for parks in the United States.

The company will establish a policy advisory council to address usage issues, said James Casey, NeuStar’s director of policy and business development. The council’s composition and other details are still pending.

In the past, “.us” policy was handled by the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute, which delegated assignments of specific names to some 800 individuals and organizations.

To accommodate the distributed assignments, names became long and cumbersome. It was also difficult to figure out where to go to get them. Though businesses were allowed to claim “.us” names, few did.

The change in “.us” is separate from last year’s decision by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to create seven Internet suffixes to relieve overcrowding in “.com.”

A NeuStar subsidiary, NeuLevel Inc., is the operator of “.biz,” one of the new suffixes. NeuStar’s “.us” database will share some of the security and technical developments being used in “.biz.”

NeuStar, based in Washington, D.C., also runs databases of area codes and telephone prefixes for the nation’s phone system.

The Commerce contract with NeuStar will run four years, with options for two one-year extensions.

On the Net:

“.us” info: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/domainname/usca/index.html

“.edu” info: http://www.educause.edu/edudomain

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