Postal wants to put its stamp on .us domain

The Postal Service is eyeing the Internet’s .us domain as an address space
it could administer on behalf of U.S. citizens and organizations.

USPS could provide universal, private and secure electronic addresses for all residents
in the United States, the agency said in a written response to a Commerce Department
request for comments about the .us domain. “The Postal Service could enhance
electronic addresses by linking them to physical delivery addresses.”

The RFC has generated 800 pages of comments since last May. Commerce held a public
meeting this month to discuss public and private models for administering what it
considers an undervalued asset. No decisions were announced at the meeting, attended by
about 60 people. The department will accept further public comments until April 9.

“Our goal was to learn from the community how they thought .us should be
used,” said J. Beckwith “Becky” Burr, associate administrator of
Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

The .us domain is one of the original top-level domains, established when Commerce
awarded Network Solutions Inc. of Herndon, Va., a contract to administer Internet
addresses. Network Solutions subsequently subcontracted .us management to the University
of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute.

Now that the government is getting out of the business of running the Internet, it must
decide what to do with its own national domain.

About 10,000 addresses are registered under .us, most of them belonging to state and
local government entities. Although the United States has the highest concentration of
Internet addresses, .us last year was only the eighth-largest domain, lagging far behind
the millions of addresses registered in other top-level domains such as .com and .org.
Competitive private-sector registrars are now taking over .com and .org administration.

Although USPS did not present a formal proposal, postal officials said the .us domain
must be treated as a national asset and so should be administered by a federal entity in
cooperation with the private sector.

USPS could add value to the .us domain by enforcing geographic requirements, business
registrations, and rights to names and trademarks, the service said. Proper oversight,
coupled with state- and business-specific secondary domains such as, could
make uniform resource locators more logical and user-friendly, USPS said.

The Postal Service also proposed setting up a secondary domain to ensure privacy. The
second domain would let U.S. residents send and receive electronic correspondence at
addresses that did not reveal physical locations.

At the meeting, Commerce heard presentations about Canada’s administration of its
national .ca domain and a recommendation for a U.S. Affinity Domain Association to form
new second-level domains.

The Domain Name Rights Coalition of Arlington, Va., proposed a public-private coalition
through which the U.S. government would set rules for the .us domain and a private
organization would enforce them.   

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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