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Zambian domain registrars again taking detrimental action

28 November 2020 04:23:18 +0000

In April we informed you that we had achieved ZICTA accreditation through our partner Preworx. The primary motivation for doing this was to provide reliable domain registration service to Zambians because, as is shown in this blog, the Zambian ccTLD (country code top-level domain) has been very badly managed by the accredited/registered ISPs that provide registrar service. By becoming an accredited registrar ourselves we hoped (and continue to hope) that we could bring our legendary customer service to dot-zm registrants, to give them peace of mind that their domains will operate as expected.

Since April we have taken a number of actions to provide improved service to dot-zm registrants:

  • We have rescued quite a number of domains that were registered through Coppernet,
  • We have helped the registrants of some domains that were previously hosted with or registered through Microlink,
  • We set up an example domain at example.com.zm,
  • We have updated the WHOIS information for all domains that we’ve transferred in from other registrars, so that they are using current and correct contact information and are compliant with all expected norms as far as contact information is concerned,
  • Many domains transferred in from other registrars had expiry dates as long as ten years ago, but all domains have been renewed up to the present, and
  • We have brought some domains “home” from overseas where they were managed by companies gouging Zambians for hundreds of US dollars per year for domain registrations.

We have also been able to use our status as a registrar with direct and established contact with ZICTA to address a number of situations where dot-zm domains were unduly taken offline due to actions taken by their previous registrars. Most recently this took place yesterday (27 November) when domains that are with the registrar AfriConnect (officially, but also known as iConnect and now “inq.”) were taken offline because their nameservers were changed by iConnect/inq without request or authorisation from the registrants. This took these domains offline all day yesterday until finally, at the end of the day, they were restored to working condition again.

Similar issues have taken place with Zamnet and Coppernet in the past, although the latter is no longer in business and the issues with the former took place before our accreditation, so we were not able to do anything except sit on the sidelines and shout! In one recent case a client’s dot-co.zm domain, registered with Zamnet, was down for over a month before it was sorted out by Zamnet! The expiry date on that domain still shows as 2015 in the WHOIS!

These situations are all examples of the fact that dot-zm domains registered with anyone other than NinerNet are in jeopardy of going offline at any time with no notice to the registrants or NinerNet. This is intolerable. Although it is not a technical requirement, ever since April we have insisted that new clients transferring in existing dot-zm domains to our hosting service also transfer their domain registration for management by NinerNet/Preworx. Any existing clients who choose not to transfer their domain registrations to NinerNet will be pointed to this blog post to ensure that they are aware of the risk they are taking if they leave their dot-zm domain registered with another registrar.

Finally, we are continuing to sell dot-zm domain registrations, renewals and transfers for K175.00 per year (50% off!) until 31 December 2020. Contact NinerNet today to arrange for the registration, renewal or transfer of your dot-zm domain!

Zamnet deleting dot-zm domains … again!

13 February 2020 05:34:35 +0000

Zamnet’s sleepy accounts receivable department has again risen from its seldom-interrupted slumber to suspend random dot-zm domains. This time they have suspended about 25 per cent of the dot-zm domains that NinerNet hosts — all without a shred of notice to any of their registrants (our hosting clients).

This results in days of downtime while these businesses — some with hundreds of employees and many hundreds of customers across southern Africa — scramble to get a few kwachas to Zamnet’s offices, and then Zamnet takes their time processing the payments. If Zamnet had bothered invoicing for the renewal of these domains in the first place this would likely have never happened. This is not the first time this has occurred; in June 2013 another significant tranche of dot-zm domains were taken offline by Zamnet until registrants coughed up extortionate sums of money (sometimes thirteen years’ worth!) to pay for all the years in which Zamnet didn’t bother to invoice for the renewal of the domains. While that’s the only example we have documented on this blog, it’s not the only example of Zamnet causing dot-zm domains to fail.

NinerNet, in partnership with registered ISP Preworx, are trying to become accredited with ZICTA to register and manage dot-zm domain registrations so that this kind of uncertainty and lack of reliability with dot-zm domain registrations and renewals can be stopped, at least for our clients and those who choose to register their dot-zm domains with us. We made the application in June 2019, but progress on the application has been held up by additional, undocumented steps we have had to take. Only yesterday we happened to submit additional paperwork in support of our application, and this morning we followed up with a complaint about this action by Zamnet and made clear that such an action would never happen under our watch. It is unclear to us what obstacles will be placed in our path now, but it is the incompetence demonstrated by incumbent registrars like Zamnet that drives us forward to our goal.

If you’d like to voice support for the application by Preworx to become a dot-zm domain registrar, we encourage you to voice this support through the ZICTA website. Thank-you.

Deletion of domains by Zamnet continues

14 June 2013 14:32:22 +0000

Not satisfied with having deleted 37 per cent of domains earlier this week, it appears that Zamnet continue to delete even more domains! Today we find out that domains that were still working on Tuesday have now been deleted, causing more clients to scramble because their email and websites have suddenly stopped working. This brings the percentage of domains deleted without warning due to Zamnet’s incompetence to 42 per cent … almost half! When will this stop?!

We encourage clients affected by these arbitrary and unannounced interruptions to their business to file a complaint with the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority. (UPDATE, 2013-06-28: The complaint form disappeared shortly after we posted this. Try their “Complaint Handling” page instead.)

Massive, unannounced deletion of dot-zm domains by Zamnet

11 June 2013 11:15:39 +0000

Over the last few days it has become apparent to us that Zamnet’s accounting department — just as Coppernet’s did almost three years ago — awoke from a long hibernation and realised that a chunk of active domains hadn’t been paid for. As a result, 37 per cent of the dot-zm domains hosted by NinerNet that are (or were) registered with Zamnet — which includes .co.zm, .org.zm and .sch.zm domains — were deleted by Zamnet, taking them off the Internet completely. One client tells us that Zamnet informed them, when they enquired, that they were supposedly four years behind! (UPDATE, 2013-06-28: Another client tells us they had not been invoiced for their dot-co.zm domain in thirteen years! They’ve since switched to a dot-com with “zambia” tacked onto their name, as so many people do to avoid the hassle and expense of registering a dot-zm domain.)

It seems unlikely to us that so many Zamnet customers had simply ignored their invoices for several years. It’s more likely that they were never invoiced. In fact, our own domain (ninernet.co.zm) came up for renewal over a month ago, and we still have not received an invoice. Perhaps Zamnet are too busy disabling over a third of the country’s Internet infrastructure to send out invoices! (CORRECTION, 2013-06-28: Oops, seems we hadn’t updated our records correctly. Zamnet [when they do invoice] bills for domains every two years. Ours does not expire until next year. Our apologies for the incorrect statement, although it doesn’t really change much!)

Screenshot of Zamnet home page, 11 June 2013.

Screenshot of Zamnet home page, 11 June 2013

Other countries take the management of their ccTLD (country code top-level domain) far more seriously than this. They have published rules and procedures governing what exactly happens after a domain expires. They also operate a WHOIS service so that the public can look up “who is” the owner of a domain and the dates that it was registered and will expire. Zamnet and Coppernet, as co-stewards of the dot-zm ccTLD — an odd arrangement that we are not aware of in any other country — do not provide any such information, at least to the public. In fact, judging by these arbitrary and cavalier mass deletions carried out by both companies, they don’t even have any such policies! They just seem to make this up as they go along.

Screenshot of ZICTA home page, 11 June 2013.

Screenshot of ZICTA home page, 11 June 2013

You would think that — given that deleting 37 per cent of the country’s domains has all of the appearance of a planned and concerted effort — Zamnet would, at the very least, post a prominent notice on the home page of their website. However, there is no such notice as of posting this. (Click on the thumbnail at left to see.) I’m also not aware of any notices posted in newspapers. So much for their laughable slogan: “Nobody delivers IT better.” Right now, more than a third of their customers are not gettingĀ anything delivered, and it’s clear that their slogan doesn’t apply to the delivery of invoices.

 

And where is ZICTA in all of this? You’d think they’d be interested in the disabling of 37 per cent of the country’s domains, but there’s nothing posted on the home page of their website either! Maybe a few complaints via their complaint form might get their attention. (UPDATE, 2013-06-28: Hmm, the complaint form disappeared shortly after we posted this. Try their “Complaint Handling” page instead.)

Please note that, if you did not register your dot-zm domain through NinerNet, we do not know when it is scheduled to expire and we cannot help you in dealing with Zamnet. We don’t know how effective it would be to request an update to the contact information for your domain so that we can monitor it, from an administrative (not technical) point of view, but if you’d like to try we’re certainly game to assist and cooperate. Let us know if you’d like to try.

Issues such as these mass and arbitrary deletions, as well as the entire dot-zm ccTLD going down occasionally, are the two main reason we discourage clients from registering dot-zm domains. This is unfortunate, of course, but clients expect their online services to actually be … online! It is also the reason that we created the alternative ccTLD for Zambia: dot-zam.co. They’re only K66 per year (as opposed to hundreds for a dot-co.zm and hundreds more for a dot-com.zm) and don’t require paperwork.

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This is the corporate blog of NinerNet Communications. It's where we post announcements, inform and educate our clients, and discuss issues related to the Internet (web and email) hosting business and all it entails. This includes concomitant industries and activities such as domain registration, SSL/TLS certificates, online back-up, virtual private servers (VPS), cloud hosting, etc. Please visit our main website for more information about us.

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