BitDepth 525 - May 23

Representatives of ICANN visit Trinidad and Tobago to raise awareness of Internet domain issues...
In dotTT's eminent domain

ICANN's Jacob Malthouse and John Crain talk shop during a recent visit to Trinidad. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

Two weeks ago, John Crain and Jacob Malthouse, representatives of ICANN visited Trinidad and Tobago to talk. Now most people don't travel thousands of miles for a chit chat unless they think it's really important, and ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers says it wants more varied voices in the discussions that are growing ever more important about the Internet.
ICANN hosts one of the key thirteen "rootzones," the directory of names and numbers that link the words we type in a web browser with the "dotted quad" numbers that are the true backbone of Internet connections.

ICANN was formed to introduce competition into the market for registrations of domains, which until all too recently (1998) was the exclusive business of Verisign. Separating the registry from the registrars created an explosion in domain name registrations and a plummet in the price of doing so.
Today, registering a domain with a company that also provides hosting for your website can cost you anything from US$3 to nothing at all.
Crain and Malthouse raced through the city's streets in their short visit to meet with anyone who wanted to talk about getting involved with ICANN's At Large Advisory Committee, so it wasn't surprising that they would make it to a sit-down with the Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society, a meeting that seemed to bring out their inner geek.

High on the agenda in Trinidad and Tobago right now is a pending change in the status of dot TT, the country-specific top level domain that ties web pages to the nation code assigned to our twin-island republic.
The .tt domain has been managed for more than a decade now by the Trinidad and Tobago Network Information Centre (TTNIC), under the stewardship of Dr Patrick Hosein and George Gobin, who are TTNIC's directors.
TTNIC's prices for our country domain haven't kept pace with international trends though.
At TTNIC's current rates, owning a registration (a second level domain), will cost you US$500 per year with a two year minimum.

So the people who own dotTT domains tend to be large companies who want to secure their web presence in this country's domain.
A UWI web poll at which probes people's preference for a dotTT domain registered a 60 percent return by respondents who would consider a local domain at a competitive price. Interestingly, that same poll also registers 10 percent of respondents who wouldn't take a dotTT domain if it came free with a box of KFC.

But based on an e-mail interview that Hosein granted to the TTCS in April 2005, it's been a benign dictatorship that began when nobody in the country really knew or cared about a country code top level domain or ccTLD as it's rather impenetrably referred to.
Over the last decade, Hosein, who no longer lives in Trinidad and Tobago, has been trying to find the right organisation to manage the domain. In the TTCS interview he says "...I have since been trying to have others take control (UWI CS dept, UWI Eng, TIDCO etc) and resisting those who have been trying to take control (TSTT, Telecom Division etc)."
But redelegating a domain is fussy business and isn't the sort of thing you want to be doing repeatedly.

The buzz in the circles that hum about these kinds of geeky things is that the Government is planning to take over the dotTT domain. The government already manages the third-level domain for its own services and TTNIC has long offered free third-level domains to educational instutions ( and the military (
The thing is, ICANN prefers more national participation in domain delegations and while you couldn't get Crain and Malthouse to say so, provoking that type of discussion seems to have been one of the ripple effects their visit was meant to trigger.
ICANN, in a white paper on redelegation describes its preference for a triangular arrangement, between the government, a nonprofit organisation setup to manage the domain and itself.

ICANN, as Crain and Malthouse said repeatedly, doesn't get involved in internal disputes and planning except in an advisory capacity, if they're asked. It's up to Trinidad and Tobago to decide how it wants its cctld run.
The catch here is that while this decision affects everyone in the long run (ten years of overpriced local domains being one example), it isn't an easy issue to explain, let along canvass support for. What would the protest signs say?
This is engine room business, delving into the underbelly of the systems that make the Internet reliable and mostly free from control. But it's also the nation's business and the government should be more open about what it's planning to do with the domain in what we should all hope is the public interest.

ICANN's At Large Advisory Committee <> encourages discussion and participation in the organisation's decision making process.
"I'd like to see more than one or two people from the Caribbean," says John Crain. "I'd like to see more e-mails and more regional participation. Currently, the only Trinidadian involved is Jacqueline Morris.

TTCS interview with Dr Patrick Hosein is at <>
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