Cory Doctorow explains that in the face of protests from internet freedom advocates, the move to give control of the .org domain name registry to a billionaire owned private equity fund has been halted, for the moment at least.
Here’s what’s happened: first, ICANN (the legendarily opaque US corporation that runs the internet’s Domain Name System) approved a change in pricing for .ORG domains, run by the nonprofit Internet Society (ISOC) through its Public Interest Registry (PIR), allowing the registry to raise prices. The change was done entirely by staff, without board approval.
Next, several of the people involved in that decision migrate from ICANN to ISOC or to a brand-new private equity fund called Ethos Capital, whose major investors are three families of Republican billionaires: the Romneys, the Perots and the Johnsons.
Ethos then buys the Public Interest Registry from ISOC for a little over a billion dollars — about a billion dollars less than it’s likely worth — and makes a nonbinding pledge to limit its price increases to 10%, compounded annually (!!) and starts a PR campaign to argue that this is very reasonable (however, none of the defenders of this practice are willing to refinance their mortgages on these “reasonable” terms, nor to offer bonds for sale at that rate).
The self-dealing and corruption on display are so revolting and undeniable that the news spreads and spreads, and becomes part of the wider critique of the monopolization of the internet and the devastating tactics of private equity firms.
Doctorow says that it will take sustained and concerted action by internet activists and lawmakers to shut this move down permanently.