United States Department of Commerce

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Industry: Government
Founded: 1903
Headquarters: 1401 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20230
Country: USA
Website: commerce.gov
Facebook: DOC Facebook
LinkedIn: DOC LinkedIn
Twitter: TwitterIcon.png@commercegov

The United States Department of Commerce (DOC) is a Cabinet Department of the United States government with a sizable mandate to boost economic growth and jobs opportunities for the American people. The US Department of Commerce was established to inspire American businesses to be innovative on the domestic front and competitive on the international front.[1]

The products and services the Commerce Department provides directly or indirectly touch the lives of all Americans and American companies in one way or another. It comprises of 12 different agencies that look after everything from weather forecast trademark, to patent protection for businesses and inventors, to the decennial census, and so on.[1]

The main goal of the DOC, set at its inception in 1903, was the development of commerce to provide new opportunities to Americans as well as American businesses. This remains the main goal of the department today.[1]


The main mission of the US Department of Commerce is to ensure advanced economic growth and provide jobs and opportunities to American people. It also has some major responsibilities in areas such as entrepreneurship, economic development, environmental stewardship, trade and statistical research and analysis.[1]

The Importance of DOC

The US Department of Commerce is assigned with the responsibility of supporting America’s economic growth and stability both at domestic as well as at international levels. This becomes more critical in times of domestic recession or global financial turmoil. The programs of the DOC are initiated with the motive of promoting trade, conducting research, developing technologies, and measuring featuring the financial success of the US economy on a regular basis.

The research conducted by the DOC estimates the seats a state will get in the US House of Representatives. The DOC guides the government as well as industry experts in keeping track of the overall health of the economy and also helps them in framing economic policies. [2]

Relation with ICANN

The DOC and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) signed an agreement known as the Joint Project Agreement (JPA) on September 29, 2006, with a view of developing methods, mechanisms and procedures mandatory to effect the transition of Internet domain name and addressing system (DNS) to the private sector. The Department of Commerce supports the work of ICANN and coordinates with it on the various technical functions associated with the management of Internet DNS. Preserving the security and stability of the Internet DNS is considered a major priority by both the DOC and ICANN.[3]

The DOC and ICANN also have a contract between them wherein they carry out the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions together. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) have been assigned the responsibility of overlooking both these agreements on behalf of the DOC.[4] According to Carlos Afonso, a former member of ICANN’s Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO), which represents the non-commercial users[5], formal relation between ICANN and the DOC is such that ICANN works as an incumbent or concessionaire and is subject to regulation by the US Federal Government.[6]

Ethics Policy

Following the departure of Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush from the ICANN Board, and his immediate hiring by Minds + Machines in 2011, The U.S. Government and other Internet stakeholders began calling for greater ethics controls and a clear policy to be put in place. The European Commission, in one of its 6 non-papers of 2011, called for the USG to enforce such stipulations via its IANA contract. U.S. Senator Ron Wyden also called for ethics rules to be put in place via a letter to National Telecommunications and Information Administration. In September, 2011, the head of NTIA, Lawrence Strickling, responded to Wyden with assurances that it is “actively exploring how to best meet this requirement” for “a clear and enforced ethics and conflict of interest policy”. This came at a time when NTIA says it was undertaking its first comprehensive review of its IANA contract with ICANN since it was awarded in 2000.[7]

DOC & The Association of National Advertisers

In September 2012, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) warned the DOC of the threats of not regulating ICANN's newly implemented TLDs and of not adopting a "Do Not Sell" registry.

Dan Jaffe, ANA Group Executive Vice President, noted in a letter, "The Internet community is on the verge of a [TLD] tsunami which will create a huge wave of risk for both businesses and consumers... [there will be] explosive growth in secondary domains (those domains to the left of the dot in Internet addresses). We believe it is critical that the DOC push for a comprehensive protection system that includes both a Do Not Sell registry and strong Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPMs)."[8]

ANA emphasized that due to the high number of TLDs to be unveiled by ICANN's new gTLD Program, policing TLDs on one-by-one basis will be difficult, and that taking precautions beforehand will be an important step in preventing future cybersquatting and fraud difficulties. Cited difficulties include the fraudulent use of brand names in secondary domains -- such as when any brand name is paired with the generic domain .sucks -- or single company ownership of generic domains -- such as if L'Oreal owned .hair, .makeup, or .beauty.[8]

Continued Jaffe, "The cost to companies that want to defensively register domains at the second level could mount easily into the multi-millions of dollars. The costs of defensive registrations also could be economically unfeasible for small and medium sized companies that will face enhanced risks of cybersquatting, typosquatting and phishing in the expanding top level domain universe."[8]

DOC & Verisign

In June 2012, the ICANN Board went against community suggestions to approve Verisign's .com registry agreement for an additional seven years after its expiration on November 30th, 2012.[9] The new policy was highly contested, and in August 2012, three of ICANN's Constituencies (ALAC, GNSO Business Constituency, GNSO Intellectual Property Constituency) sent a letter to ICANN complaining that the organization held its renewal talks with Verisign behind closed doors and the result is that there are no Thick Whois requirements for the .com TLD.[10]

The decision could not move forward without approval from the Department of Commerce, which Verisign received on November 29th, 2012, with some changes to the original decision made by the ICANN Board.[11][12]

Verisign is to serve as the registry operator for .com from December 2012 through November 2018, with new terms and conditions, including:

  • Verisign's current pricing of $7.85 per domain name registration will remain unchanged for the next six years;
  • Verisign no longer holds the right to increasing prices up to seven percent over the six-year term, and all new price increases will be circumstantial and subject to Commerce Department approval.[12]