Publication Title

Washington University Law Quarterly


One goal of this Article is to describe and document the privatization processes for the backbone network and the DNS. We initially assumed the privatization of the Internet consisted of a simple shift from a subsidized network to a competitive market for backbone services. However, we found the privatization process to be quite complex and problematic. Unfortunately, many of these same problems are reoccurring in the current privatization of the DNS. Our study found three categories of problems that occurred during the privatizations of the Internet’s backbone network and the DNS: procedural problems, problems with the management of competition, and problems with the management of the technological infrastructure of the Internet. As a direct result of these problems, there is a lack of competition in the backbone and DNS industries. In the backbone industry, a few large backbone providers have been able to limit the entry of potential new competitors. The lack of competition in the DNS has resulted in consumers paying higher prices for domain name registrations. Furthermore, lack of competition has also constrained consumers’ choice of domain names and led to overcrowding in the popular dot com (“.com”) domain. Thus, a second goal of this Article is normative. We propose specific measures to prevent these problems from reoccurring in future privatizations. In addition, we present proposals to promote competition for backbone services and the DNS. These proposals address the proper role of government in future privatizations. We also address the government’s role in ensuring that new technologies are not employed in a manner contrary to our existing social values.

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