By now, you may have already read that Neustar’s contract to manage the .us TLD was renewed by the United States’ National Telecommunications and Information Administration (see DNW, DomainInvesting, CircleID).

To be honest, we hadn’t heard anything about this contract coming up for tender and decided it might be beneficial to our readers to take a look back at the bidding process and the terms under which Neustar will operate for the next ten years.

Let’s start with a timeline:

1. October 18, 2018  /  NTIA publishes a solicitation for .usTLD Management.

2. November 21, 2018  /  Neustar submits its technical proposal, right at the deadline.

3. February 28, 2019  /  Neustar’s previous ccTLD management contact expires.

4. June 28, 2019  /  NTIA announces that Neustar’s contract was extended.

5. August 29, 2019  /   The new contact enters into effect

Neustars’ proposal was the only one that we were able to locate, but we cannot state for certain that they were the only applicant.  The solicitation specifies that the licensee “must be able to demonstrate that all primary registry services will remain within the United States.”  This would seemingly disqualify several companies that offer registry services, although Virginia-based Verisign would have met the criteria.

Although referenced as a ten-year agreement in most media outlets, the contract extended to Neustar is truly a series of two-year agreements.  The first runs from August 29, 2019 – August 28, 2021, with the NTIA retaining the option to renew for August 29, 2021 – August 28, 2023 and so on.

Other key points of the agreement:

— Neustar can only sell second-level .us services through accredited registrars, but is expected to service end users interested in registering third-level domains under the following extensions:

  • Locality domains: .co.us (county) and .ci.us (city)
  • Affinity domains:  .state.us, .fed.us, .k12.us, .lib.us and .nsn.us
  • Content for children: .kids.us

Note that .kids.us was suspended in 2014, but the NTIA is apparently keen to revive this namespace.

— The registry is contractually obligated to enforce the Nexus requirement.  In other words, Neustar cannot unilaterally decide to remove prospective registrant’s obligation to indicate a bonafide connection to the United States.

— Interestingly, Neustar is obliged to present the NTIA with a transition plan in the event another company is eventually awarded the contract to manage the .us TLD.  This plan must be submitted within one year.

The reasons for a given ccTLD’s price and availability are often opaque, even in the case of those from major countries like the United States.  It can be tempting to attribute inconvenience in managing a ccTLD portfolio to the registry operator, but as evidenced by Neustar’s contract, the ccTLD manager has a large influence on the registrant’s experience.

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