VeriSign gets US approval bid

VeriSign will run the key directories that keep track of '.com' domain names until at least 2012 as the US Commerce Department approved a lucrative contract extension, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said the US government's clearance was the final one needed for VeriSign to extend its hold over the most popular suffix on the Internet, for which it now makes $6 per name each year, or some $350 million for the nearly 59 million names registered.

VeriSign reached a contract agreement earlier with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the organization that oversees the Internet's domain-name policies. Commerce has veto power over ICANN decisions, the report said.

In approving the extension, Commerce said it would require VeriSign to obtain prior government approval for any further changes in the contract's pricing provisions or for any subsequent renewals _ important because the government has indicated it was reducing its oversight over ICANN, the report said.

Critics had urged Commerce to reject the contract, complaining among other things that VeriSign would no longer be required to invest in the Domain Name System's infrastructure and that the company would get first dibs to renew the contract in the future.

Commerce sought to address that by stating that any renewals would be granted only if 'the approval will serve the public interest.'

In a statement, VeriSign said it was continuing to invest tens of millions of dollars in the infrastructure, even if the contract no longer specifies any minimums.

The directories in question are necessary for computers to know where to find Web sites and send email with addresses ending in '.com.' Millions of people around the world depend on them every day, but rarely know it.