Want .gov? That'll be $125.

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State and local governments must now pay before taking advantage of a year-old General Services Administration decision to loosen the federal government's exclusive hold on the .gov domain name.

As of July 31, all agencies registering or renewing a .gov Web site must pay $125 annually. Federal agencies have always paid GSA for URLs, but a 16-month fee-free period for states and cities has ended.

Federal rules that allow GSA officials

to assess the fee set the upward limit at $1,000 for registration and $500 for renewal. "One hundred and twenty-five dollars

to support the overall registration process is actually very reasonable," said Keith Thurston, assistant deputy associate administrator of GSA's Office of Electronic Government and Technology.

Since March 2003, when GSA opened the .gov domain to governments at any level, nonfederal agencies have come to account for almost 60 percent of the 3,400 public entities using a .gov domain name, according to GSA officials.

Doug Robinson, executive director of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, said the organization wants states to shift to .gov. Previously, states were encouraged to use a .us registry, although some branched out to .com.

But .gov is distinctive and unique. It allows governments "to distinguish themselves away from the proliferation of the .com world," Robinson said. As for the cost, "$125 is certainly within reason to be able to have that authoritative source."

Because third-level domain registrations by cities using state URLs are covered by the $125 fee, he said he expects most states to max out their GSA bill at $250 per year — one for the full state name and one for the state abbreviation.

No one has called or written to complain about the fee, according to Robinson and GSA officials. However, people have inquired about how to pay it, said Mary Mitchell, deputy associate administrator in the office. GSA accepts credit cards, she added.

The fee was set under the assumption that the number of .gov URLs will continue to steadily increase, Mitchell said. "We set the fee on a growth assumption so we wouldn't have to be adjusting [it] up and down," she said.

Still, not every state is clamoring to sign up. Florida officials, four years into promoting MyFlorida.com as the state's official portal, have no plans to switch. The site receives about 150,000 unique visits a day, and since January, the URL has replaced the state's name on license plates.

"If you look at it from a business perspective, what do I gain from going to .gov from .com?" asked Matt Kimball, Florida enterprise portal director. "What I get is having to re-educate the population of some 15 million people for the correct URL."

Nor is Kimball about to begin using automatic redirects for those who type in MyFlorida.gov. That violates Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires that technology be accessible to people with disabilities, according to Kimball. "That's what the statute says," he added.

Robinson said .gov domains offer "consistent navigation and nomenclature to the citizens," but Kimball said Florida will hold out, at least for now. "I don't see a short-term fix to the .gov situation," he said.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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