The U.S. Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari in Thomas v. Network Solutions Inc., U.S., No. 99-605, cert. denied, 1/18/00, could well go down in judicial history as a celebrated “what if,” for the plaintiff’s challenge, if successful, could have resulted in the dismantling of the Internet domain system as we know it. And yet, as a one line decision, it received relatively little press coverage.

The plaintiffs had challenged the right of Network Solutions Inc. to charge fees for its registration system. Since the start of its cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation in 1992, NSI has grown into a publicly-held, multimillion-dollar operation so powerful that it was able to defy the ability of the industry-created Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to govern it during much of the last half of 1999. While the court challenge to its ability to survive was ongoing, NSI was, finally and grudgingly, beginning to cooperate with ICANN in the development of other registrars like itself.