Staff justification report echoes its previous comments, as well as Verisign’s.
ICANN has published a review of comments submitted about its proposed contract amendment with Verisign (NASDAQ: VRSN) for .com. The most controversial aspect of the amendment is allowing Verisign to increase the price of .com domains by 7% per year in the last four of every six years of contract extension.
The staff report (pdf) reads more like a justification, even defending itself against some of the comments made. In its analysis of comments about the price hike, staff comments that one of the objectives of the amendment is to align it with Verisign’s Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Government. That agreement now gives ICANN the option to allow Verisign to raise prices. It also repeats its mantra that it’s not a price regulator even though it has controlled prices on some domains for years, and still does with .net.
Oddly, the staff report adopts some of the language that Verisign introduced in its own submission (pdf). Verisign stated that the groundswell of comments about the amendment came from “domain name speculators” and groups that align with them. The staff report states:
One of the reasons for the high volume of comments is that several organizations involved in the speculation sector of domain name industry mobilized their members and customers to
submit comments to ICANN.
The staff report also notes that many industry blogs, including Domain Name Wire, anticipated these price increases due to the Cooperative Agreement amendment. This also mirrors Verisign’s letter.
Earlier this week, Verisign announced that it would not raise prices this calendar year. Kevin Murphy of DomainIncite noted that the fourth year of Verisign’s current agreement doesn’t start until October 21, 2020. So this might just be a two-month reprieve. Verisign will need to give a six-month notice of its first price hike. I suspect it will “read the room” around the current status of the COVID-19 outbreak before announcing its first price hike but it will definitely happen before the fourth year is up in October 2021.