Decision imminent on .eu consortium

6 Mar 2003

A senior executive in the European Commission has confirmed that the decision to award administration of the .eu domain name registry has been whittled down to one successful consortium that, given the thumbs up, will be announced in the coming month.

However, doubts about the final evaluation process employed may mire progress.

The head of the internet-related service unit in the European Commission, Georges Papavlon, told that proposals from several Europe-wide consortiums have been reviewed in terms of business plans, services, legal issues and technical competence.

Following an exacting bureaucratic process, he said, the committee responsible for reviewing applications has decided upon one consortium, which once the final decision has been made by EU commissioners, will be announced within the month.

“It was a formal exercise that involved a review of the applications and consultations with various member states in line with the 2005 Directive on Communications. That process only ended this week. One candidate currently stands out and it is for the commissioners to decide before the end of March to award the running of the .eu domain registry,” Papavlon said.

According to sources, two consortiums are confident that they may be the winning consortium – an Irish consortium led by fundraiser Paul Kavanagh and a French/Spanish/Greek consortium. The .eu domain registry will form the nucleus of the commission’s ambitious e2005 plans and guarantees prestige and a strategic role for the successful nation.

If the Irish consortium, called Eureto, is successful it will mean the creation of 180 new jobs in administration, technical and legal roles in Letterkenny and Derry as well as the construction of a 100Mb network system supporting the proposed Registry involving sophisticated hosting and mirroring infrastructure that would employ at least 10 people in Dublin.

When asked about the bid, Eureto’s Kavanagh said he expressed concern at the fact that he had heard that only three – legal, service and technical – out of 12 criteria set down by the EU for running the domain registry were taken into consideration during the final evaluation of proposals. He said he also heard from sources in Europe that final evaluation was done by technology experts, with little attention paid to business plans. “If the evaluation has been completed by competent people, then I would be very confident that the Irish bid was successful. But only if the evaluation has been completed under all 12 criteria. We’ve had our application reviewed by business experts and have the financial backing of major banks. From a technical viewpoint, the backing of Afilias is considerable,” he said.

“If the evaluation has been done by people who are competent from a business perspective, then I am confident we will win this,” Kavanagh added.

At the centre of the Irish consortium’s bid a technology partnership with Afilias, an Irish-registered global provider of internet domain name registry services and a pioneer in the generic top level domain (gTLD) and country code top level domain (ccTLD) markets. The company is the exponent of extended protocol (EPP) technology on which top-level domains are run and is the administrative body for the .info and .org domain names.

The Eureto consortium chaired by Kavanagh includes Dick Spring, David Andrews and Sean Donlon on its board, as well as Rudy Bric of Hermes SoftLab, French lawyer Jean Christophe Le Toquin (famous for the French case against Yahoo! over the sale of Nazi memorabilia) and German ISP pioneer Axel Pawlik. As well as this, over the course of the past nine months Eureto has been putting together its blueprint for the sophisticated infrastructure, with involvement from Accenture, Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, Fleishman Hilliard-Saunders, legal eagle Ivor Fitzpatrick, Ultra DNS, NCC Escrow and hosting provider Interxion. Also paying close attention in a non-active capacity have been IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland.

However, in January the rival French/Spanish/Greek consortium, entitled Eureg, issued a statement describing itself as one of the strongest candidates for the .eu Commission. The consortium, consisting of the national registries of the three countries’ domain names as well as those of Poland and Malta, has allied with several pan-European database information providers.

The not-for-profit Eureg plans to develop its own software with a view to leading research in the field of domain name registry and claims to be financially secure due to financial commitment from all its institutional members. It also plans to sell domain names at wholesale prices of €5, which is lower than the reference price in the present domain names market.

However, observers have criticised that since the French/Spanish domain system is to be built from scratch it may not be built in time to meet the objectives set down in the European Union’s e2005 Directive.

By John Kennedy