Freedom for the Net?

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WASHINGTON: At precisely nine o’clock Friday morning, the Internet became a free territory. Well, not quite, but that is when the Commerce Department released a preliminary plan on its web site for phasing out U.S. government involvement in the name-registration business.

That means the end of the monopoly of Network Solutions, the Virginia company with an exclusive contract on dot-coms (not to mention dot-orgs and dot-nets). The company's contract runs out at the end of March -- and though it’s expected to be extended for another six months, that is believed to be the last gasp of the domain-naming dinosaur.

And then what? Clinton’s plan, which doesn’t require the congressional stamp of approval, is expected to create a global, private-sector body to take the reins over the next two years. Another all-powerful Internet Illuminati? “We’ve got to be sure there’s not a breakdown in the system,” Ira Magaziner, a senior Clinton adviser, told Reuters. True, but many Internet users would prefer open competition among domain-name registration firms. Today’s report is just the beginning of that battle.