Proposed new rules threaten to kill .CO.ZA — and the regulator just doubled down

South Africa’s regulator for the .za namespace, the .ZA Domain Name Authority (ZADNA), has doubled down on controversial new rules for the country’s Internet domains.

ZADNA published draft regulations on 22 April, proposing sweeping changes to South Africa’s country code top-level domain (ccTLD) — .ZA.

New public domain registrations under our ccTLD are currently limited to four second-level domains — .co.za, .net.za, .org.za, and .web.za.

Several other second-level domains operate under South Africa’s ccTLD that are not open to the public. These include .ac.za for academia and .gov.za for government.

With roughly 1.3 million domains registered, .co.za is South Africa’s largest second-level domain space by a significant margin.

Among ZADNA’s proposed new rules affecting these domains are:

  • Registrars (or hosting providers) must collect identity documents of registrants
  • Registrars must provide ZADNA with access to their environments upon request for audits
  • Registrars must pay ZADNA a licence fee, which is yet to be determined

Following constructive feedback, criticism, and backlash from the industry, ZADNA has issued a press statement defending its proposed regulations.

“To close the legislative gap arising from not fulfilling prescripts of section 68 of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 2002, the gazetted draft .za Registry and Registrar Licensing Regulations introduce a licensing process that enhances the regulatory processes,” the regulator stated.

“This is based on the aspirations of the Authority to have a framework that will inform a clear outline of the administration and management of the .za namespace across all SLDs.”

ZADNA said the proposed regulations would improve and solidify the enforcement of the currently used framework.

“The Regulations will ensure enforcement of requirements for registries and registrars to be licensed, monitoring their operations, investigations in the event of a breach of the Regulations, and revocation of the license,” it stated.

ZADNA CEO Molehe Wesi said the identification document requirements are to easily track registrants when complaints are lodged, and deter the prevalence of knowingly abusive registrations.

“The Authority receives online abuse reports related to fraudulent activities conducted using .za domains, which applies to national and international registrations across various industries,” he stated.

“The insufficiency in the information provided through the value chain has proved, in most instances, insufficient to investigate and handle the matter to finality in an adequate manner.”

ZADNA said that gathering identity information is crucial, arguing that it “progressively affects the economy and individuals”.

The regulator’s defence of its regulations follows industry stakeholders highlighting shortcomings between ZADNA’s ambitions and reality.

These include:

  • Registrars will stop offering .ZA domains because the requirements are onerous compared to competitive products.
  • Registrants will choose domains without identity requirements. There are over 1,500 top-level domains to choose from when hosting a website, most of which don’t require government ID.
  • Fraudsters will use falsified identity documents to register domains if they want them badly enough.
  • ZADNA will harm and even kill small businesses eking out a living with domain registrations by increasing registrar operational costs.
  • ZADNA’s regulations will cause the price of .ZA domains to skyrocket, making them uncompetitive.

Defending dictates, not consultation

MyBroadband asked ZADNA questions regarding these concerns during a members’ engagement session.

Its answers have not changed since then — the regulator appears intent on defending its proposed regulations and not on incorporating the feedback of its stakeholders.

In an FAQ document accompanying its press release, ZADNA promises to consolidate and review the submissions made.

“A review of the draft regulations will follow this to capture in clause format considerations made through the submissions,” it stated.

“This will also include a report on the submissions made.”

After this, the regulations will go through the appropriate channels to be promulgated or returned for further review.

One group of registrars decried the regulations as a “smokescreen money-grab”, as ZADNA has refused to say how much its licence fee will be.

“[ZADNA] will, within three months post the promulgation, embark on a consultative process to acquire input on a proposed license fee to be charged, which shall inform a determination of a fee having considered the real-industry impact as expressed through the consultations,” the FAQ stated.

Wesi encouraged more written submissions before the 6 June submission deadline lapses.


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Proposed new rules threaten to kill .CO.ZA — and the regulator just doubled down