Testimony of Nancy J. Victory on H.R. 2417, the “Dot Kids Name Act of 2001”

November 5, 2001

Testimony of Nancy J. Victory

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Telecommunications and Information

before the

House Energy and Commerce Committee

Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet

on H.R. 2417, the “Dot Kids Name Act of 2001”

November 1, 2001

Chairman Upton, I would like to thank you and the members of the Subcommittee

for inviting me here to testify today. Developing safe spaces on the Internet

for children is certainly a worthwhile undertaking and I appreciate this

opportunity to work with you to realize this goal.

I believe that the Internet should be a tool of electronic commerce,

education, entertainment, and communications for all Americans. During

my tenure at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration

(NTIA), I intend to further policies that produce opportunities for all

Americans to take greater part in the digital age. At the same time, I

want to ensure that the Internet provides positive, safe online experiences

for our children.

The Administration continues to support ongoing private sector efforts

to address many of the concerns raised by our children’s increasing access

to the Internet. There have been many thoughtful and innovative approaches

taken by industry, non-profit organizations, and public institutions to

provide ready access to child-friendly, quality content on the Internet

and to develop technological tools that help parents and guardians protect

children from material they consider inappropriate. I commend them for

these laudable efforts.

As you know, there are a number of excellent web sites specifically

designed for children. Industry has also developed any number of innovative

technology tools, including filtering software and browser applications.

Recently, the Internet Content Rating Association, a global non-profit

organization backed by industry leaders such as AOL, the Microsoft Network

and Yahoo!, announced that it has developed a new voluntary rating system

that allows content providers to label web site content. And, just this

week, EarthLink announced that it had teamed with SurfMonkey to offer a

free, downloadable browser and new children’s services designed to offer

children a safer online experience. In addition, EarthLink will offer a

$2.95 per month premium service that provides advanced parental controls

on e-mail, instant messaging, videophone, bulletin boards and chatrooms

and that includes a technology that enables children to communicate only

with friends whom their parents have approved.

These efforts promise to empower parents to manage their children’s

online experiences consistent with their individual values. The Administration

continues to believe that industry working with concerned parents and family

organizations can make great strides in improving the quality of a child’s

experience on the Internet.

I am particularly pleased to report on two actions that the Department

of Commerce announced this week that I believe will enhance opportunities

for Americans, including children, on the Internet. First, the Department

entered into a cooperative

agreement with EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit organization representing the

information technology needs of the U.S. higher education community, to

better manage and expand the existing .edu domain. The .edu domain is one

of the original seven top level domains created by the founders of the

Internet for use by four-year colleges and universities in the United States

for computer research purposes. This legacy domain has since been used

by U.S. institutions of higher learning to provide college registration

services, distance learning programs, curricula distribution, and a myriad

of other educational purposes. The cooperative agreement with EDUCAUSE

recognizes the importance of involving the higher education community in

the policymaking related to .edu to ensure that it better serves education

in America. I am also pleased to announce that, as one of its first actions,

EDUCAUSE will be making the .edu domain available to approximately1,200

regionally accredited community colleges across the United States.

I am also pleased to report that the Department awarded a contract

to NeuStar, Inc., for management of the existing .us domain. The .us

domain is the country code top level domain created by Internet founders

to be associated with the United States. It is currently used primarily

by state and local governments, schools, libraries and other public institutions.

Because of its cumbersome locality-based naming structure, the .us domain

has been largely unused by American businesses and consumers.

However, we are hoping the NeuStar contract will change that by providing

enhanced opportunities for all Americans – – small businesses, industry,

individuals, state and local governments, and schools and libraries – –

to have a presence on the Internet uniquely associated with the United

States. NeuStar has committed to making substantial investments in the

technical management of .us as well as developing a means for U.S. stakeholders

to participate in policymaking. One of the interesting aspects of its proposal

is to create “public resource” domains under .us to serve as common spaces

to further various public interest and service objectives. Pertinent to

today’s hearing is that NeuStar specifically proposes for one such public

resource domain a “.kids.us” space as a “safe” space on the Internet specifically

tailored to the needs of children.

We at the Department of Commerce are looking forward to working with

NeuStar to explore implementation of this aspect of their proposal in a

manner consistent with our goal of empowering parents and respecting our

nation’s fundamental commitment to free expression. We will work with the

Subcommittee as we move forward in this implementation to ensure that our

mutual goals are achieved.

The Subcommittee has asked for my comments on H.R. 2417, the “Dot Kids

Domain Name Act of 2001,” and the manager’s amendment. While the NeuStar

proposal may obviate the need for such legislation, I appreciate the opportunity

to share my thoughts. While I support the goal of the legislation, the

mechanisms contemplated in both versions raise substantial policy and legal


The bill as introduced seeks to mandate the creation of a top level

“.kids” domain by requiring the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names

and Numbers (ICANN) to select a .kids domain operator. Such regulation

of the management of the Internet domain name system is inconsistent with

the established policy goal of privatization of that system, and particularly,

private sector leadership with respect to the introduction of new top level


Among other things, unilateral action by the United States to create

an “international” .kids domain is at odds with the global nature of the

Internet and its domain name system. International reaction to U.S. efforts

to legislate in the area of domain name management could hamper the United

States’ abilities to advance its foreign policy objectives, particularly

critical telecommunications and information policy goals. Our international

allies have a strongly held aversion to United States’ efforts to assert

its national will on the Internet, a global resource. In fact, some governments

have already raised objections to the instant legislation and have suggested

that this kind of U.S. action supports their position that Internet-related

decisionmaking should more properly be decided through international governmental


I am also concerned about the mechanisms that the bill uses to mandate

the creation of such a domain. The bill uses the memorandum

of understanding between the Department of Commerce and ICANN to regulate

its activities with respect to new top level domains. All activities under

the memorandum of understanding, however, are by mutual agreement. The

Department of Commerce does not “regulate” ICANN. The memorandum of understanding

very clearly leaves the selection and introduction of new top level domains

to the private sector-led process within ICANN. I continue to believe that

the private sector is best able to make decisions about new top level domains

that affect the global Internet.

The bill would also prohibit ICANN from considering, or the Department

from approving, any new top level domain or country code top level domain

until a .kids domain is established. I am very concerned about the potentially

anti-competitive impact of this provision on U.S. stakeholders, including

information technology companies, seeking to enter the domain name market.

As Secretary of Commerce Evans wrote to Dr. Vinton Cerf, ICANN’s Chairman,

in May of this year, the Department supports ICANN’s ongoing activities

to select new top level domains. In particular, Secretary Evans noted the

importance of competition in the top level domain market.

The bill also establishes a content standard for the .kids domain and

requires ICANN and the Department to regulate online content based on this

standard. Some courts have in the past found such government mandated standards

to be problematic, and I understand this issue is currently pending before

the Supreme Court in the COPA case. I am also concerned about the

appropriateness of the Department of Commerce regulating online content.

Traditionally, law enforcement agencies enforce the various prohibitions

against illegal content (e.g., gambling, pornography, fraud).

I am pleased to say that some of the difficulties inherent in H.R. 2417

as introduced are eliminated in the manager’s amendment by focusing instead

on a domestic approach. The manager’s amendment requires the creation of

a second level “.kids” domain under the .us top level domain. While I believe

focusing on .us is more likely to yield a successful realization of a “kid-friendly”

space designed for American children, the manager’s amendment still raises

some policy and legal concerns. Particularly, I note that the amendment

continues to require content standards and enforcement by the Department

of Commerce. It also alters the existing contractual obligations between

the Department of Commerce and NeuStar that were established through the

government procurement process and it changes the company’s expectations

with respect to its opportunities under the award.

While the Department supports the development of a .kids.us domain,

I am concerned that problems with this legislation could ultimately undermine

that goal. I believe that development of a viable, voluntary space in the

.us domain for children’s content can better be achieved by focusing on

implementation of the proposal put forth by NeuStar in the .us award. I

would like to continue to work with the bill’s sponsors to develop an approach

that would ensure that the proposal is implemented in a timely and beneficial

way. NTIA expects part of this effort to include working with our contractor

to conduct outreach to interested family organizations and public interest

groups and to consult with relevant government agencies, including the

Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Justice. I look

forward to reporting back to the Committee soon on the progress we have


Again, thank you for this opportunity to testify. I will be happy to

answer any questions you may have.