GOVERNMENT TECHNOLOGY/GSA’s final rule for the dot-gov domain
Cities and counties that want to take on the dot-gov domain name for their Web sites now have that option, thanks to the General Services Administration (GSA). The federal agency responsible for oversight of the dot-gov Internet domain name has issued its final ruling on how cities and counties can register their Web sites with the dot-gov suffix or extension.
For years, the dot-gov domain name has been reserved for federal government departments and agencies. Over the last two years, however, GSA has allowed states and some local governments to register using the dot-gov suffix. The domain name format that the majority of cities use is www.ci.cityname.state.us, and many counties use the www.co.countyname.state.us format.
The new rule, in review by GSA from July 2002 to March 2003, sets guidelines for the naming format cities and counties will be allowed to use for their government Web sites if they wish to register for dot-gov. For example, a local government that registers a dot-gov name must include either the full or abbreviated city or county name and a clear reference to the state in which the city or county is located (i.e., detroitmi.gov or richmondcounty-va.gov). The rule also identifies the government officials that may submit a request for a dot-gov domain name on behalf of a jurisdiction: the mayor (for cities or towns), a county commissioner (for counties) or the highest-ranking information technology official.
While generally pleased that GSA issued a final rule, local governments continue to be confused about the status of domain names that are already registered and whether they must be changed to meet the new format. Some also are unclear about the status of requests for dot-gov names that were submitted before the final rule was announced and the possibility of GSA implementing registration fees. GSA does not currently charge a fee, but the final rule states that the agency might institute a fee in the future if circumstances require. The fee issue is of particular concern in light of the current tough economic climate for cities and counties.
Why do some local governments want dot-gov? As local governments develop more e-government services, they are devoting more resources to marketing their Web sites as places for residents and businesses to go for government information and services. As part of those marketing efforts, governments are developing online services that promote a uniform look and feel throughout the entire Web site, and feature updated content and easy navigation. Many jurisdictions want to use a dot-gov name for two reasons: the Web address may be easier for users to remember (for example, www.scottsdaleaz.gov is simpler than www.ci.scottsdale.az.us), and some users may feel more comfortable using the site because the dot-gov name implies that it is an official government site.
However, not all local governments will take advantage of a dot-gov domain name. The cost of printing new business cards, stationery and other material with a new name may be prohibitive for some cities and counties. Other governments have already invested heavily in their current domain names, in terms of marketing and Web site name recognition, and have no desire to change their Web addresses.
Local governments wishing to register for a dot-gov domain name must go to the Network Information Web site of the GSA at www.nic.gov. The GSA approves domain names for a specific period of time, generally two years, and allows renewals. In addition to instructions and the online registration form, users can review the complete set of guidelines. Cities and counties continue to be able to register with the dot-us, dot-com or dot-org domain names.
The author is information specialist for Washington, D.C.-based Public Technology Inc.