The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) announced that .gov top-level domains will be available at no cost for qualifying organizations beginning immediately – a move that should help on the cybersecurity front especially for smaller governmental entities.

“In conversations with current, former, and potential .gov registrants, one concern was raised above all others: the price of .gov domains, $400 per year,” CISA said in a press release. “Though .gov is like a gated community – a digital space that’s only available to genuine U.S.-based government organizations – government IT administrators have often found the higher price hard to justify to their management in the face of lower-cost alternatives, typically priced at less than $20 annually from other TLDs. This is felt most acutely by smaller municipalities and the election community.”

CISA said it will not be charging any registrant or renewal fees through “at least” the end of FY 2021, though it did not make any comment on fees for FY 2022 or beyond.

The Federal government has been looking to push .gov domain adoption among state, local, and Tribal governments as a means to improve the security of their domains by making it more difficult for cybercriminals to conduct phishing attacks on citizens.

“Using .gov and increasing trust that government communications are authentic will improve our collective cybersecurity,” Eric Goldstein, executive assistant director for CISA’s Cybersecurity Division, said in March. “People see a .gov website or email address and know they are interacting with an official, U.S.-based government organization.”

As part of today’s announcement, CISA also said it updated its broader standards for the .gov domain.

Specifically, the agency updated its requirements to obtain and maintain a .gov domain – an action that was required by the DOTGOV Act. CISA also added a provision regarding limits on its sharing and the use of .gov information. It also clarified and expanded domain eligibility and documented eligibility verification. The updates include now allowing tribal governments recognized by a state government – not just tribal governments recognized by the Federal government – to request .gov domains.

In an FAQ accompanying the announcement, CISA said that it will not offer refunds for organizations who recently paid for a .gov domain. Additionally, it said registration and renewal will also be free for Federal agencies.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs