The nonprofit Internet Society attracted widespread condemnation late last year after announcing it was going to sell off the Public Interest Registry, a subsidiary that administers the .org domain, to a private equity firm called Ethos Capital. People were particularly alarmed because the move came shortly after ICANN removed price caps on registration and renewal fees for .org domains. That opened the prospect of big price hikes in the coming years.
In a Friday press release, Ethos Capital announced it would voluntarily commit to limit price hikes for the next eight years. But under the new rules, Ethos Capital would still be able to raise prices by 10 percent a year—which would more than double prices over the next eight years. Ethos framed this as a concession to the public, and strictly speaking, a 10 percent price hike limit is better for customers than completely uncapped fees. But 10 percent annual increases are still massive—far more than inflation or plausible increases in the cost of running the infrastructure powering the .org registry.
For comparison, ICANN recently announced that Verisign, the company that administers the .com domain, will be allowed to raise prices by 7 percent per year over the next decade, except for a two-year "pause" after four years of hikes. Those changes, adding up to a 70-percent price hike over 10 years, was enough to trigger alarm among domain registrars who must pass these fees on to their customers.
Ethos Capital's proposed limits are also much more than historical increases in the .org fee. The maximum fee charged by the Public Interest Registry for a domain registration has risen from $6 at the end of 2006 to $9.93 today—an annual growth rate of less than 5 percent.