[DNS] Volunteers

[DNS] Volunteers

From: Bruce Tonkin <Bruce.Tonkin§melbourneit.com.au>
Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2001 13:16:06 +1100
Hello All,

There have been many postings over the past few weeks on the role of
volunteers and in particular the effect of the new competition model on
".org.au", ".asn.au", and ".id.au".

There seems to be a monopoly on volunteers that I was not previously aware
of.  Apparently only the volunteers operating ".asn.au", ".org.au", ".id.au"
are treated as volunteers and everyone else is out to "commercialise" the

Here is my view.  It is unfortunately a long posting!

(1) There has been a long standing view amongst those that started using the
Internet while students at a University that the Internet is "free", and
hence domain names are also "free".  In actual fact the Internet was funded
either directly by the Government or indirectly via the Government through
funding Universities.  It was free to the University student, but ultimately
the taxpayer funded the development.  Much of the infrastructure (ie
equipment) for ".au" was provided by Universities originally, and then by
companies such as Telstra (e.g AUNIC was hosted at no direct charge to the
consumer).  I agree that many individuals working for Universities or
government institutions (defence etc) developed the Internet largely without
any public knowledge, and usually without the knowledge of senior management
in those institutions.  Much of the Internet was run at little marginal cost
(ie the computers and network equiment were part of a general "computing"
budget which was usually centralised, and the additonal cost of prociding
Internet services was low or invisible to senior managers).  As Internet
usage increased the costs of providing Internet services could no longer be
hidden and hence organisations began charging end-users, and private
industry began to offer Internet services to the public at large.    The
same cycle occurred with ".com.au" , which was originally a low volume
service where quality of service was not important.  ".com.au" was moved
onto a commercial footing where the cost of labour and equipment was charged
for, and in return the quality of service was improved.  

(2) When attending IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) meetings, there
are many individuals that consider themselves as volunteers and are acting
in the best interests of the Internet as a whole.  Most of these individuals
are on good salaries at large multi-national companies.  They are valued at
these companies for their expertise, and the companies generally provide
them with travel support to attend IETF meetings.  Many of these indivuduals
put in alot of their own time (nights and weekends) to work on IETF issues,
but they are also generally using equipment provided by their employer etc.
I have noticed a strong drop in volunteers working on issues associated with
the telecommunications industry, as the competition in the
telecommunications industry has increased.  In fact Telstra used to supply
many staff for participation in standards activities, etc.  I have noticed
organisations like the Telecommunications Society of Australia struggle
under the new competitive environment, and the requirement of many
individuals to spend their nights and weekends on their paid job as
organisations reduce staff.

(3) The work of the Names Panel and Competition Panel was primarily
performed by volunteers, and most of the public submissions were made by
volunteers.  These people were like the people attending IETF meetings,
largely concerned with acting in the best interests of the Internet as a

(4) There is nothing in either the competition panel report, nor in the
Registrar or Registry licence agreements that states that services cannot be
provided to end-suers for free or by volunteers.  The competition panel
report does raise the quality of the ".au" infrastructure and the
infrastructure for registering third level domains (e.g domain-name.com.au,

(5) With regard to ".org.au", ".asn.au", "id.au".  There is nothing stopping
a well resourced organisation from choosing to provide the registry services
at no charge, whilst still meeting the quality of service requirements in
the registry tender.  This is most likely to occur when the marginal cost of
providing these services is low (and usually when the volume of names
registered in ".org.au" etc is low) ie an ISP or Internet registry or
registrar may already have much of the infrastructure.  So lets wait for the
registry tender process to run its course before complaining about the

(6) With regard to ".org.au", ".asn.au", "id.au".  There is nothing stopping
an organisation or a volunteer providing registration services at no charge
(the organisation or volunteer could choose to pay the registry fee or auDA
fee, just as an organisation may choose to provde a computer to allow a
volunteer to provide services).  The benefit of the new model is that an
organisation can pay a fee to a domain name registrar to get a level of
service associated with the domain name.  ie competition will allow a range
of prices and service, including free and minimal service.

(7) With regard to ".org.au", ".asn.au", "id.au".  There is nothing stopping
an organisation or a volunteer paying the domain name registration fees of a
domain name retailer, on behalf of a non-profit organisation.  ie there is
no monopoly on providing support to a non-profit organisation.  Many
non-profit organisation may continue to get their domain names for free via
any of the mechanisms above.

(8) There is no restrictions on organisations providing domain names at the
fourth level (e.g domainname.wattle.id.au, domainname.nameregistry.com.au).
The new model will have no effect on the fourth level domains currently
registered within ".id.au".  auDA has started that it will for the first
time allow open registration at the third level of ".id.au" - e.g
domainname.id.au.  I see no problem with charging for these names especially
if a registry or registrar is successful in increasing the numbers of
".id.au" names.  Equally there is nothing stopping anyone providing these
services for free.

(9) The one area that has not received public comment is the fee and licence
structure chosen by auDA in the Registry tender.  The difficulty for auDA,
was not knowing what tender responses would be received, and whether there
would be separate tenders for say ".org.au", versus only tenders for all the
second level domains.  auDA also does not know what how much revenue will be
raised from auctioning generic domain names, and how many domain names will
be registered over the next 12 months.  I expect that the fee structure
could be reviewed as the outcome of the tender process is decided, and
should be subject to on-going review as the revenues and costs for auDA
become more defined over the next 12 months.  I hope auDA will allow public
comment on the fee structure in future.  For example there is nothing
stopping auDA from charging no fees for ".org.au", but this would mean that
registrants in ".com.au" etc would be subsidizing the registrants in
".org.au" with respect to the cost of regulation.

So in summary, the new environment was primarly developed by volunteers, and
volunteers will continue to play an important role in the development of the
Internet in Australia.  There are no indications that organisations and
individuals will not be able to obtain domain names at no charge in future.
However Australia will end up with a far more reliable and secure Internet
infrastructure, and end-users will be able to choose between free domain
names and paying for a domain name with customer service.

Bruce Tonkin


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Received on Wed Nov 21 2001 - 02:24:10 UTC

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