Nominet proposes to set aside a list of reserved named to be protected from the release mechanism being put forward in the direct.uk consultation, and to give those names to a number of government bodies, who are about to lose their .gov.uk internet identities, an example is ‘independent.uk’, which will be reserved for the Supreme Court. Nominet has confirmed that this has not been requested by government, this is Nominet’s own initiative. Nominet has not answered following the direct questions: ‘What is the legal basis for giving such a valuable ‘gift’ to government?’, and; ‘Why do you describe as not ‘meaningful’, the rebranding options that are currently available to those bodies, ie that they may seek out new domains under the current second level libraries (.org.uk, .ac.uk, etc)?’ For me, this kind of arguably worthy initiative by Nominet to help its friends in the government, and keep them sweet during a period of consultation to introduce a controversial shock to the uk internet market, illustrates Nominet’s whole problem as a trading entity. Nominet’s role in the world is poorly defined. My MP Andrew Smith has confirmed that a number in government regard the relationship between Nominet and the government as ‘unsatisfactory’. Nominet wants to be regulator, competitive business, charity feeder, and unregulated by government all in one. Anything, except a membership organisation! In the vacuum of uncertainty, the more commercially minded directors are presented with wonderful opportunities to exploit the closeness with the government, to business advantage (we don’t know if they do). The raft of ex-civil servants who are now employed by Nominet seem to think they are still working for government, and seem to be supporting and putting forward proposals for the government, and seem to have forgotten that they are working for a private company, limited by guarantee, regulated by its members. As such, you cannot just give assets of huge commercial worth to government entities without going through a process. The government entities have no entitlement to those services (although some that I met clearly seem to think that they have). This transaction will be attacked on both fronts. Even if Nominet were to gain permission from its members to give away such assets, the proposals effectively offers extremely lucrative domains, at below market rate to public bodies, and bypasses the release mechanism. Many of the names will be contested (eg Independent, food), and in some situations, no doubt the public body would lose out through the standard release mechanism. If they wanted to buy the domains from others in a “contention set”, they’d probably have to part with a lot of money - just like everyone else. And we can’t have that. I was struck by the air of entitlement from public officials at the round table. If businesses said “I’m here to make sure I get my name”, they would be derided as have a “vested interest”. To me, the transaction looks like this company giving away valuable domains to gain influence with the government, or to avoid trouble from the government. Meanwhile, everyone else will be left to scrap it out.. The second point, and the most important for me, is that Nominet is not a supplier of .gov.uk domains to the government, that is currently fullfilled by JANET who have always maintained the .gov.uk and ac.uk TLD, and who are themselves a public body. Government bodies are obliged to tender, and go through a proper process to receive any services from a private company. Relevant issues for the government to consider are the value of those assets being requested, the other competitive offers available to the taxpayer, and the integrity and quality of the service provider. Those government bodies would not be able to, for example, ignore unresolved allegations of breaches of directors’ duties between a company and its owners.