PIR says “enough is enough” after ICANN asks to extend deadline.
The California Attorney General has opened an investigation into ICANN and the sale of Public Interest Registry (PIR), which operates .org, from non-profit Internet Society to private equity company Ethos Capital. As a result, ICANN asked PIR last week to extend the deadline for ICANN to approve or deny the transaction by two months.
Now PIR is taking a calculated risk: it is pushing ICANN to make a decision faster, potentially forcing the transaction into a new legal stage.
In a letter to ICANN (pdf), PIR’s lawyers have granted only a shorter extension until February 29. The company said that it may approve a short extension after that.
The California Attorney General’s involvement pushed the .org sale into uncharted territory, and PIR, Internet Society and Ethos are now involved in a risky game.
On the one hand, they could go along with the delays, of which there might be more, giving other opponents to the deal an opportunity to apply pressure on ICANN.
On the other hand, they can push ICANN to make a decision and risk ICANN denying the change.
Until now, it didn’t seem that ICANN had a legal reason to withhold its consent of the deal. Could an investigation by the attorney general, which claims to have regulatory oversight of ICANN, be a reasonable reason to withhold consent?
ICANN’s lawyers are undoubtedly looking into this question.
If it withholds consent, this question could end up in the courts.
Regardless of what happens with the .org deal, ICANN has a new headache to deal with. The attorney general is asking about more than just this deal. It is asking ICANN how, after years of regulating prices, it somehow says that it’s not a price regulator. It has asked for the contact information of its board. Suddenly, a board that just does whatever ICANN’s lawyers tell it to do might have to start thinking for itself.
In the end, this could be a fair outcome. Internet Society, PIR and Ethos are doing something that seems to be permitted by the contract with ICANN to run .org. ICANN probably made numerous mistakes that led to this, and it might finally be held accountable. Accountability might help prevent future mistakes.