Icann has just two choices regarding its agreement with VeriSign and registries for the .com, .net and .org domains, attendees at the organisation's public forum in Melbourne have been told.
The status quo is that on 10 May, VeriSign will divest its registrar business. In return, it will operate the .com, .net and .org registries until 2007, at which time it will be able to seek renewal for all three together.
At that time, the application process must consider the applicants' ability to handle operations on the prevailing scale (and VeriSign will most likely be the only registry operator on that scale).
The agreement also limits VeriSign's obligations to follow Icann policies, and it places a hard cap on VeriSign's fee contributions.
An alternative agreement -- "Option B" -- has been prepared by Icann staff and VeriSign, under which VeriSign will operate the .org registrar until 2002, .net until 2005, and .com until 2007.
The company will not seek renewal for .org, and .net will be subject to competitive bids. However, renewal of the contract for the highly popular .com domain would be virtually automatic if VeriSign was providing an adequate service, and the company does not have to divest its registrar.
The problem is the 10 May deadline in the existing agreement. The involvement of the US Department of Commerce means that Icann must make a decision by the beginning of April.
Although some board members and several people from the floor of the forum believe Option B represents a substantive policy change and that the timetable does not give sufficient time for due process, it seems that VeriSign has adopted a "take it or leave it" stance.
VeriSign chief executive Stratton Sclavos said Icann staff, not his company, proposed Option B and while it does offer benefits to VeriSign, others accrue to Icann and the Internet community.
Comments from the floor were largely negative. Erica Roberts, representing the registrar's constituency, said. the central issue was the "integrity of Icann and the Icann processes".
If the Domain Name Support Organisation and the Names Council were not involved, it makes a mockery of the idea that Icann has a bottom-up policy development model.
Dave Crocker, a forum participant, said Icann can either accept the new contract or stick with the existing one, but "both alternatives suck".
Although the matter will be discussed at today's Icann board meeting, chairman Vint Cerf said no decision would be taken until later in the month.
For complete business coverage, see ZDNet UK's Enterprise Channel.
Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum.