ICS seeks .ie takeover

16 Sep 2003

The Irish Computer Society (ICS) is seeking to take over the management of the .ie domain name registry in the interests of safeguarding this national asset amid concerns over its current management.

In correspondence released under the Freedom of Information Act (FoI), 1997, Frank Cronin, CEO of the ICS, expressed an interest to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in running the .ie domain name registry.

“Our credentials are second to none in this regard, having been formed in 1967 as the professional body for those working in IT,” he said in a letter sent to the Communications Minister, Dermot Ahern TD, in December last year. “To operate the IEDR would not be a difficult task for us, we have combined over 15 employees and this includes technical skillsets,” he claimed.

Speaking to siliconrepublic.com, Cronin elaborated on the offer that, he insisted, still stands: “It was felt that the IEDR was floundering without direction or leadership and that the ICS could run and manage the registry if that was an option. The ICS is a safe pair of hands in the event the decision was made to appoint a new organisation to run it and I wanted to make sure the relevant people knew of our offer. With the .eu domain looming it was felt that in order to safeguard a national asset (.ie) that the IEDR had to make some moves to ensure it did not experience massive churn as a result of the introduction of this new suffix. For these reasons, I expressed an interest in the ICS taking over the running of the registry.”

The current management of Ireland’s top-level domain, the IEDR, has for some time been courting controversy, particularly over issues such as lack of transparency in its decision-making and claims of excessive bureaucracy in terms of perceived difficulty amongst Irish internet users obtaining domain names. The controversies came to a head last year when the IEDR’s CEO Mike Fagan was suspended on full pay amidst claims that he was bringing a lawsuit against the company for harassment.

Currently, the only IEDR financial report is for the 18 months to the end of 2001, for which it reported revenue from registrations of €1.94m. Some €1.85m in costs were incurred by normal overheads and “certain exceptional fees and location costs”, leaving a surplus of €70,000 after tax.

The core of the Irish internet industry, the Irish Internet Association (IIA) and the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI), have complained about many aspects of the IEDR over the past two years such as its financial stability as well as the way the company is managed.

Documents released under the FoI Act show that Ireland’s internet industry is anxious for change. In a letter to the department, sent last December, the IIA said it was “impossible” to operate within the current system and that the “current business model and its implementation leaves much to be desired”. “Despite continued assurances to the contrary it is apparent that it is far from ‘business as usual’. Domain names are being allocated but the other day-to-day activities required for a registry (such as changes to DNS addresses and so on) are not being carried out with anything approaching the required level of efficiency,” the IIA added.

Also, in a letter sent to the Department in November, the ISPAI expressed “extreme concern” over the management of the domain name and the charging structures. “The ISPAI members are particularly concerned that, as the largest contributors to the IEDR income, the over-priced domain names have encouraged inefficiencies and waste in the IEDR operation.

“The current state of the IEDR is a cause for serious concern for all parties who are interested in the development of internet services in Ireland. Since the Electronic Commerce Act, 2000, gives the minister the power to ensure fair competition and public confidence in the registration of .ie domain names, the ISPAI would strongly support any move to exercise the powers conferred in Section 31 of the above act,” it concluded.

Also to express serious concern was the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Harney TD. In a letter, sent to the Communications Minister in February, Harney said the difficulties surrounding the registry were damaging Ireland’s image as a credible location for e-commerce and representations made to her department suggested that parties may seek to have the registry wound up.

All these concerns have led to the Department of Communications reluctantly stepping in to change the management of the domain, although it will say little publicly on the matter.

In the event a decision is made to source another party to operate the top-level domain, Cronin insists that the ICS’s “expression of interest still stands”.

By Lisa Deeney