As you already know, not everybody can head over to GoDaddy and register a dot-edu domain. There are many unrestricted top-level domains, such as dot-com, dot-org and dot-net, but top-level domains are restricted by the Commerce Department. In 2001, they entrusted EDUCAUSE — “a nonprofit association of more than 1,800 colleges, universities, corporate partners, and other related associations, is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology” — with the responsibility of registering and managing all dot-edu domains. Because the dot.edu top-level domain is managed by the U.S. government, domains are only available in the United States.
A school must meet a long list of qualifications, but, in short, it has to be an accredited postsecondary education institution. Domain names are granted on a first come, first served basis — so, hopefully, your school has already scooped up the desired domain. Because there are a limited number of schools applying, most schools registered their first choice. Schools with the same initials may face competition. For example, the University of Southern California and the University of South Carolina are both referred to as USC. Southern California was able to register USC.edu while South Carolina uses SC.edu.
EDUCAUSE charges $40 per year to manage a dot-edu domain. You cannot prepay for multiple years, and each school is allowed just one domain. This prevents colleges from buying up virtual real estate that could be used to extort other schools. There is no black market for these domains, and the restrictions are tight. You won’t find any fake dot-edu sites on the Web.