Adding to the growing questions about the wisdom of giving incumbent country code registries a “fast track” to new IDN top level domains, a Bulgarian registrar has sent a letter to ICANN claiming that it should receive the new TLD rather than the current country code manager. The Bulgarian company, UNINET, has already launched a local version of '.бг' and claims that it resolves in Bulgaria through many “DNS patches” supported by national Internet service providers. UNINET criticizes the policies, prices and sluggishness of the Bulgarian ccTLD administrator (Register.bg), which has registered only 7500 names after more than 12 years of operation. In contrast, Bulgarians have registered around 180,000 domains in generic TLDs such as .com, .net, .org and .info – a clear indication of the inadequacy of the current ccTLD manager in meeting the needs of the local market.
Whatever the merits of UNINET’s desire to be first in line for a “fast track” Bulgarian IDN domain, their letter underscores how wrong it is to assume that the existing ccTLD managers deserve a special right to be the first occupants of the IDN space. UNINET points out – correctly, we think – that “if ICANN awards Register.bg the IDN “бг'” TLD, the market for Bulgarian script names may become a monopoly controlled by Register.bg since the market for Bulgarian names worldwide is rather small and needs only one or a few Bulgarian TLDs.” The same would be true of many other national and linguistic markets. IDN top level domains should be awarded as part of a generic process in which all applicants are equal and are evaluated by the same rules. And competition policy, one of ICANN's prime directives, should play a role in deciding who gets what.