The Internet Service Providers’ Association (Ispa) – an industry body that represents South Africa’s ISP community – has warned that draft regulations dealing with .za domains could damage the popular .za brand.

The draft rules from the .ZA Domain Name Authority (Zadna) “place burdensome restrictions on domain name registrars and registrants which will lead to brand owners abandoning the .za Internet country code in favour of one of the multitude of generic domains such as .com or .business that are easier to register”.

“Zadna’s draft regulations and procedures as they stand threaten to undo 34 years of local and international goodwill towards domains ending in .za. The regulations are heavy-handed and cumbersome, and as such will disincentivise the adoption of .za registrations,” warned William Stucke, chairman of Ispa’s domain name working group, in a statement on Friday.

The regulator’s draft regulations are “entirely out of step with current domain name international best practice”, Stucke said.

“In particular, the proposed requirement that registrars collect identification information from those wanting to register a .za address will deter new registrations and renewals and lead to additional costs for registrars. In a highly competitive registrar market, this means  increases in the retail pricing of .za domains,” he added.

“The .za namespace has been so well managed by Zadna and the ZA Central Registry (ZACR) thus far that, from only 400 registered names some three decades ago, registered .co.za, .web.za, .org.za and .net.za domains now number a commendable 1.362 million.

“A positive growth trajectory will be maintained as long as the significant .za goodwill that has been earned over the years is not destroyed by top-down approaches to domain administration that only serve to sweep aside past progress as domain owners and others shift to more stable platforms that don’t needlessly change what works,” Stucke said.

‘Deleterious effect’

“The draft regulations as proposed would have a deleterious effect on the .za namespace and Ispa sincerely hopes Zanda will properly consider the many submissions that have been prepared by the industry,” said Stucke.

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