The most successful rebranded ccTLD may soon have a new administrator. Neustar’s license to manage Colombia’s .co is set to expire later this year. Last week the first details begun to emerge about how the next license will be awarded.
A law passed by the Colombian congress in 2006 sets the regulatory framework for the .co domain. This law stipulates that the administration of .co can be licensed to a private company for a period of up to ten years.
The current licensee is .CO Internet SAS, which won the contract in 2009. .CO Internet was acquired by Neustar in 2014 and this company has managed .co ever since.
Colombia’s IT and Communications Ministry (MinTIC) announced it will soon publish its “plan of action” for selecting the next licensee. Afterwards, the Ministry will present the project to possible registry operators, in an attempt to generate a multiple-bidder scenario.
At some point between July and September, bids will need to be submitted. The goal is for the winner to sign a contract with the Colombian government by the end of the year. This bidder would begin operating the TLD in February 2020.
MinTIC considered bidding processes held recently for .in (India) and .au (Australia) in deciding to select the next operator in this manner. According to MinTIC representative Sylvia Constaín, there is an unfavorable comparison to be made between contracts recently awarded in these countries and that which currently governs the .co license.
“When compared with other countries whose (country code) domain has a similar number of users, the framework for the licensing contract now used for .co is clearly divorced from current market practices.”
MinTIC’s plan is not without opposition. There is a citizens’ movement that seeks, among other things, to prevent the extension of CO Internet’s license. One arguement put forth is that MinTIC lost the authority to put management of .co up for tender via a 2009 law, which reassigned this function to the country’s Communications Regulatory Committee (CRC).
The citizens’ movement leader, Eulalia Gómez Paz, also highlights a 2014 law that allowed the licensee to reduce the percentage of revenue paid to the Colombian government, which she categorizes as “inexplicable.” Currently, 6-7% of the revenue from sales of .co domains by .CO Internet to its partners is paid to the government. This percentage can vary according to the total number of active domains.
Whether this is a true, competitive bidding process remains to be seen. At least from the perspective of the citizens’ movement, there is a sense that the process may be tilted in the favor of CO Internet. We’ll stay tuned to news out of Colombia and publish an updated story as new details become available.