Although the .ZA Domain Names Authority (ZADNA) has held two meetings to seek feedback on its regulatory proposal for the .ZA namespace, South African registrars fear their comments will fall short. in deaf ears.
Registrars are companies that help customers purchase and set up their Internet domains.
On April 22, ZADNA proposed controversial regulatory changes to the .ZA namespace in South Africa, including:
- Registrars must collect identification documents from people registering .ZA domains.
- Registrars must apply for a license and pay license and registrar fees.
- Registrars must provide ZADNA with access to their environments upon request for audits.
Absolute Hosting chief executive Jade Benson told MyBroadband that ZADNA held two online meetings in May with affected parties to seek feedback on the regulations.
During the first meeting, Benson questioned the need for licensing fees, the collection of identifiable documents, and the registry’s unfettered access to registrar environments.
ZADNA has not addressed any of those concerns, Benson said.
On May 24, the regulator hosted the second meeting – a discussion on registrar engagement.
“During the meeting, I requested answers to my previously posed questions, but ZADNA provided no answers,” Benson said.
“It indicates that they have no intention of changing the regulations they are proposing and are just following procedure.”
He said ZADNA had told the clerks that they should come up with solutions to the issues arising from the draft settlement.
“When I asked them again about the registrar license fee, they told me to suggest a monetary value. I offered R1 license fee every ten years – an answer that all registrars registration have approved and supported.
Register Domain SA CEO Mauritz Koekemoer said regulation would cripple the .ZA domain industry until the pre-2011 era, when the ZA Central Registry (ZACR) was still using an outdated registration system and time-consuming.
“No country anywhere on Earth has ever instructed registrars to collect personal identification documents to allow someone to register a domain name. This will become an administrative nightmare for registrars,” Koekemoer said.
Domains.co.za general manager Wayne Diamond said it didn’t make sense for ZADNA to complicate the registration process when .ZA faces overwhelming competition.
There are over 1,500 top-level domains to choose from, including .com, .africa, .me, and .xyz.
“With so much competition in the domain space now, the regulator should make it easier to buy a .ZA domain to promote growth, rather than adding burdensome regulations.”
Diamond explained that the new regulations would require registrars to “perform many manual tasks that will increase the price of domains to the registrant.”
“With no benefit to the registrant or registrar, one can only think that the proposed regulations are there to benefit the regulator.”
“By charging additional fees, ZADNA may make more money in the short term, but this move will hurt anyone associated with the .CO.ZA domain in the long term,” said Thomas Vollrath, CEO of 1-Grid.
However, ZADNA’s response to questions from MyBroadband indicated that the regulator disagreed with registrars’ sentiments.
“The regulation will benefit all players in the .ZA domain name ecosystem,” ZADNA said.
“In particular, registries and registrars will provide industry with unified and centralized licensing and compliance processes. For registrants, they will benefit from a more secure online environment through the deterrence of online activities that compromise their secure use of the Internet.
In response to widespread industry criticism, ZADNA also released a press release and Q&A defending its controversial regulations.
“I’m afraid that ZADNA will start rolling [registrars’ proposed] changes despite sufficient warning not to proceed, which could very well lead to the demise and decline of the ZA namespace,” Benson said.
Benson explained that registrants and registrars are already considering alternative namespaces with less government interference.
“We all advocate .africa domain names as an alternative and have sent ZACR over 120,000 domains to register as free alternatives to .co.za,” he said.
“A license fee is intended to ensure that ZADNA can extort money from registrars who will have to pass this cost on to their resellers and registrants.”
“Smaller registrars have already indicated that they should relinquish their registrar status and purchase domains from other registrars if licensing fees are excessive. This would result in an uncompetitive market.
Another major concern is that customers would avoid the services of South African registrars entirely due to privacy concerns.
In response to a request from a member of the MyBroadband community forum postBenson explained that requiring registrars to give ZADNA unfettered access to their infrastructure poses a substantial risk.
“If ZADNA needs access to a Registrar’s infrastructure, it has access to everything – there may be data in that environment that ZADNA has no jurisdiction over and should not have. access.”
Benson said abandoning the proposed regulations would ensure the continued growth of the domain industry.
“The .ZA namespace is currently a stable ecosystem thanks to registrars and the ZACR, which have provided governance and policies that protect the interests of all parties, rather than being a financial mule for a single organization at the expense of all South Africans,” Benson said.
Diamond said implementing the new regulatory framework would effectively destroy the .ZA brand.
“If the new regulations are put in place, there will be very little future growth in the .ZA domain space – it will essentially destroy our own .ZA brand as fewer people will register and use a .ZA domain there. ‘coming.”
“Unfortunately, regulations that may have good intentions often hurt suppliers to local industry where they should be helping it,” Diamond said.
MyBroadband asked ZADNA if it plans to incorporate industry feedback into its final regulations.
“The Authority will consolidate and review the contributions and submissions made,” he said.
“The draft regulations will then be reviewed to capture the relevant and substantive considerations provided by the contributions and submissions in clause form.”