The decision last April by Verisign -- due to become effective this October -- to raise the fee for both .com and .net domain names hardly created a fuzz in the online community presumably because consumers thought the hike was justified after years of unchanged rates.
But here in the Philippines, the price increase has sent a chilling effect to those who have conscientiously followed the oppressive way in which a private company has managed .ph, the country code top level domain (ccTLD).
Observers said Verisign's move may give DotPH, which performs the dual (and conflicting) role as registrar and administrator, the idea to again jack up its already bloated domain rates.
For reasons it keeps only to itself, DotPH charges an outrageous US$70 for two years for registration of a .ph domain name (it's actually US$35 a year but there's no option for single-year registration). This is far costlier even if compared to the latest adjusted price imposed by Verisign at US$6.42 for .com domains and US$3.85 for .net domains.
It really looks absurd, if not downright silly, for a ccTLD to be more expensive than a top-level domain such as .net or .com. But that's exactly the case in the Philippines. I'm speaking from experience since I manage the Web sites (cyberpress.org.ph and pscijourn.org.ph) of two journalist organizations in which I'm a member.
This practice has been going for a long time now that critics have become exasperated of complaining against the company and its owner, Joel Disini, who was smart enough to get the rights to manage the ccTLD during the early years of the Internet in the country.
Even the government, through the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), has miserably failed to compel Disini's DotPH to be subjected to regulation. The CICT has been toothless in its attempts to make the company choose being a registrar only or just an administrator.
By keeping both positions, the private firm has become the overlord of Philippine Internet society with no accountability whatsoever to any regulatory body.
Thus, as a virtual monopoly, it has arbitrarily set and raised the prices of what is arguably a national patrimony. Heck, it even tried to peddle the .ph domain to phone companies in the same mold as .tv domain is being sold to television stations or companies. Fortunately, that treason-like venture did not take off the ground.
If previous efforts failed to rein in this folly, then maybe the local Internet community can use the principle of eminent domain to lodge a complaint in the court, preferably the Supreme Court, for relief.
I'm no lawyer but if my limited knowledge of the law is correct, the legal maxim of eminent domain refer to the inherent power of the State to acquire or expropriate a private property--even without the owner's consent--for the common good.
The ccTLD is, in fact, more than just a private property which the Philippine government ought to seize for the benefit of more Filipinos--but at a just compensation. It cannot, and must not, allow this national resource to reside in private hands whose only intent is to use it for monetary gains.