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The overseer of the Internet’s domain naming system is closer to approving a controversial service for back-ordering Web addresses.

The subject of past lawsuits and congressional hearings, the wait listing service, or WLS, is expected to be the most contentious issue during next week’s meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers in Rome. ICANN’s board of directors is scheduled to consider approving the WLS during its March 6 meeting there.

Word of an impending decision on the service began spreading last week among registrars, the companies accredited by ICANN to register Web addresses for consumers and business. ICANN, after its board delayed action on the service last week, posted a January letter outlining the completion of final negotiations with VeriSign Inc., the registry that manages the .com and .net domains and that is seeking to launch the WLS. VeriSign, of Mountain View, Calif., also sent e-mails to registrars about the negotiations.

“The WLS will be a front and center issue in Rome,” said Christine Jones, general counsel for registrar GoDaddy Software Inc., of Scottsdale, Ariz. “It looks like a decision is imminent, and so many members of the registrar community are opposed to it in its current fashion.”

The service, first proposed in 2002, would allow those seeking a particular domain name to pay for the right to claim it in the event the current registration expires. Only one person could place a reservation on a given domain name.

ICANN officials have remained largely mum about the issue. An ICANN spokesman said the organization does not plan to respond to the registrar coalition’s letter and noted that any final decision about the wait listing service is up to the ICANN board, not ICANN staff.

GoDaddy was one of three registrars that sued ICANN in July 2003 to block the WLS; the others were Dotster Inc. and eNom Inc. In November, a federal judge denied the registrars’ request for a preliminary injunction against ICANN. Then in December, Jones said, the registrars dismissed the case. She declined to offer details about the dismissal, citing confidentiality requirements.

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