The body which oversees the Internet has put forward a revised deal to settle a long-running dispute over the crucial .com domain name.
The tentative settlement was reached between the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) and the current .com owner, Verisign.
The proposals would limit fees for .com addresses charged by Verisign. But Verisign would still retain control of the lucrative .com domain until at least 2012.
The revised settlement follows months of public consultation over an initial agreement reached in October last year. There will now be another period of public input before it goes before the boards of Icann and Verisign.
In a statement, Verisign said the deal represented "the best efforts of both Verisign and Icann to resolve differences that have been present for several years."
The settlement is designed to put an end to rival lawsuits filed against each other over, which were sparked off by the introduction by Verisign of a controversial search service called Site Finder.
The Site Finder service meant if web users were looking for a .com or .net domain that was non-existent because of typing mistakes, or it was not registered, they were sent to Verisign's website instead of just getting an "error" page.
Icann was worried the website could have affected the stability of the net. Rivals claimed Verisign was taking advantage of its position as an administrator of .com domain names.
Under pressure from Icann, Verisign suspended the service in October 2003. The company later sued Icann, claiming it had no authority to stop it from offering its site finder service. In response, Icann countersued.
Controls on fees
The revised settlement places new limits on the fees charged for .com domain names. It would allow Verisign to raise prices by up to 7% a year in four of the next six years.
Further raises would only be allowed in certain circumstances. The previous terms would have let Verisign to raise the fees every year without conditions.
The agreement would also stop Verisign from passing on separate surcharges that help fund Icann. Instead, Verisign would pay Icann $6 million in the first year, rising to $12 million in 2009.
The deal leaves .com in the hands of Verisign until 2012, when it would be given the option of renewing its contract with Icann. Critics say this effectively prevents others for bidding to run the .com domain.
A lobby group called the Coalition for Icann Transparency said the new deal did no go far enough. It has two lawsuits pending against Verisign and is also targeting Icann.
"It's pretty clear that Verisign and Icann are aware of the areas that are most objected to by the Internet community, but I do think that the revision posted offers change in name only," John Berard, a spokesman for the group, told the Associated Press news agency.
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