The controversial report over ownership of the Net’s third biggest registry was fudged and the evidence is contained within the report itself.
The 58-page document by US tech company Telcordia has faced severe criticism since it was released last week. Now it has emerged the criterion on which Verisign was chosen was never specified by ICANN, which commissioned the report. Typographic errors in the section dealing with the unrequested criterion further undermine the report's authority.
Telcordia decided that existing .net owner VeriSign was most suited to running the registry for the next six years, although the difference between it and second-place bidder Sentan was "not statistically significant" and "minimal", it reported.
Instead, the number of "blue" rankings that VeriSign was awarded throughout the report led to Telcordia's recommendation that it keep control. The "blue" rating represented a bidder exceeding requirements on any of the previously decided judgement criteria. VeriSign came top with 14 blues, and Sentan second with 13 blues - 12 "high priority" and one "medium priority".
However, one of the criteria that VeriSign won a blue on that Sentan did not was not specified by ICANN and serves no practical function. The "Provision for Business Failure" seeks to evaluate the bidders on their ability to hand over the registry if it becomes a commercial failure.
Aside from producing the bizarre situation that the bidder most adept at handing over control of the registry is rewarded its ownership, there is no mention of the criterion in the extensive 91-page report [pdf] produced by ICANN's GNSO committee that provided the foundation for the entire review. Yet it is this criterion that tips the balance in Verisign’s favour.
Further confusing matters, it appears that Telcordia has actually copy/pasted the same conclusion from the previous criterion. In both cases, the legend "Provision for Registry Failure" appears in the report, despite the clear separation of the two deciding factors, followed by all bidders but VeriSign receiving a "green" rating. VeriSign receives the vital "blue" rating, which results in it winning the contest for .net.
This puts yet another question mark over the accuracy and professionalism of the report. It is far from the only problem:
· Bidder Denic has already accused the report of being "sloppy" and full of "serious factual errors".
· The chairman of the GNSO committee that decided the report's criteria has called for an investigation into what he has called "a fundamental contradiction between the dot net evaluator's methodology and the GNSO dot net report"
· Telcordia has still to release the list of people on the evaluation team in order to answer conflict of interest concerns (even ICANN remains unaware of who has effectively decided ownership of .net)
· There is a large disparity throughout the report over the risk of having primary and backup servers in the same electricity region. Ultimately, VeriSign benefits to the level of one "blue" in the uneven approach - the difference between winning and losing the entire contract
With ICANN opening contract talks with VeriSign solely on the basis of the report, it is inevitable that the Internet overseeing organisation will be asked to halt such discussions until the report's failings are dealt with. A vote to that effect is expected on the first day of ICANN's Argentina meeting, Monday 4th April.
Telcordia's dealings with the first and second-place bidders have already raised a number of questions about its independence that the company has so far failed to respond to.
Telcordia was, until very recently, owned by SAIC, which also had a significant interest in VeriSign until 2003. Telcordia and VeriSign, working under the same umbrella company, also worked very closely together on an Enum project in 2000/2001, giving joint presentations to governments and international organisations around the world on their combined vision. The two even formed a partnership, Enum World, to make the most of their co-operation.
Much has been made of the fact that Telcordia has now been bought by private equity firms Providence Equity Partners and Warburg Pincus giving it a connection to second-place bidder Sentan. Such a connection is, however, a red herring.
Warburg Pincus and Providence Equity each own half of Telcordia. Warburg Pincus has a 67 percent share in Neustar. Neustar owns 90 percent of NeuLevel. And NeuLevel owns 70 percent of Sentan.
However, when it comes to Telcordia, the company that decided who would run .net, and NeuStar, the majority owner of second-placed Sentan, there is a long and bitter history.
NeuStar became rich on the back of contracts it fought bitterly for against Telcordia. With the split-up of AT&T in 1984, a company called Bellcore, jointly owned by all the "Baby Bells", took over the task of telephone numbering across the US. Bellcore was subsequently bought by SAIC and became Telcordia.
In 1996, it was decided that this increasingly profitable business should be opened up and a neutral third party take over telephone number administration.
As such, each US state held a selection process for a phone number adminstrator and in nearly every case it was NeuLevel pitched against Telcordia for the contract.
With millions of dollars at stake each time, the battle between the two became increasingly heated, with NeuStar at one point formally accusing Telcordia of plagiarising its presentations. After a series of clashes, NeuStar came out on top, winning double the number of contracts.
NeuStar also beat Telcordia to the contract for the North American Numbering Plan Administration (NANPA), which provides overall telephone administration for all of North America, plus Canada, Bermuda, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and so on. NeuStar won the contract in 1997 and then again in 2003.
The bitter acrimony between NeuStar and Telcordia, combined with Telcordia's previous close relationship with VeriSign, is not in itself enough to dismiss the company's conclusions over .net - for which it received up to $400,000.
However, the accusations levelled at it by one of the five bidders, and by the chairman of a committee that formed the report's parameters, combined with the introduction of a specious criteria, incompetently added to the report, gives pause for thought.
The .net registry contract ends on 30 June 2005. Currently the registry comprises over five million domains, representing the third-largest directory on the Internet. An estimated 20 percent of all Internet servers use the .net registry as their entry point into the international computer network.
UKFast is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites.