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CEO DATELINE – Private equity firm offers ‘accountability’ concessions for .org sale

Feb. 25, 2020
By Walt Williams

The private equity firm seeking to purchase the .org top-level domain is offering to cap price increases for renewing web domains and make other concessions if the sale is allowed to go through.

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Ethos Capital has offered more than $1.1 billion to purchase the nonprofit Public Internet Registry (PIR)—which manages the .org top-level domains that many nonprofit organizations use in their web addresses—from the Internet Society. The proposed sale has set off alarms in the nonprofit community, with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers recently delaying to March 20 a decision whether to approve the transaction.

In a Feb. 21 statement, Ethos Capital said it has put forward a series of legally binding “accountability initiatives” to add to the terms of the sale in hopes of easing concerns that it would jack up prices and censor .org users. They are:

Not to raise fees for registering and renewing domain names by more than 10% per year on average for eight years.

The establishment of “stewardship council” to advise the PIR on matters related to censorship and use of user data.

The creation of a community enablement fund to support initiatives by .org registrants, with Ethos pledging $10 million to the fund.

An annual report assessing PIR’s compliance with the above commitments.

“PIR’s mission has always been to serve the .ORG community, and this agreement with ICANN ensures that we will continue to do just that,” PRI CEO Jon Nevett said in a statement. “The binding and enforceable commitments announced by Ethos today ensure protections that support Ethos’ pledge to be a responsible partner to PIR.” http://bit.ly/2Vlc2IH

Ethos, PIR and the Internet Society will host a community discussion Thursday, Feb. 27, from 3-4 p.m. EST.  More information about the event is at www.keypointsabout.org/events.

It is unclear whether the concessions will be enough to alleviate the concerns of the sale’s skeptics. Most recently, two critics—the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Americans for Financial Reform—called on the Federal Trade Commission to review the proposed purchase and its potential effects on nonprofits.