Irish bid to install EU domain

15 Nov 2002

Former Fianna Fáil fundraiser and the driving force behind the International Financial Services Centre and the Digital Hub projects, Paul Kavanagh (pictured) rarely needs an introduction.

His latest project is an attempt to secure Ireland’s bid for the administration and hosting of the forthcoming .eu top-level domain address, in other words the European domain name registry. His calling card, which takes the form of a 4,000-page proposal and a series of technology alliances and an infrastructure blueprint, has taken nine months to prepare.

Ireland is understood to be competing against six other EU countries for this project, which forms the nucleus of the commission’s ambitious e2005 plans and guarantees prestige and a strategic role for the successful nation. Bids for the project, which is understood to rule out any government involvement in bidding countries, were submitted within the last two weeks and the successful bidder will be announced in February.

If Ireland is successful it means that on top of our reputation as the world’s largest exporter of software, our reputation as a powerhouse of technological innovation will be complete. On a more material basis, it will mean the creation of 180 jobs in administration, technical and legal roles in Donegal 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.

Ireland’s ace was revealed by Kavanagh in the form of 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 consortium, chaired by Kavanagh, is called Eureto and includes Dick Spring and David Andrews 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 (internet service provider) 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-Hillard Saunders, legal eagle Ivor Fitzpatrick, Ultra DNS, NCC Escrow and hosting provider Interxion.

Also playing close attention in a non-active capacity have been IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland.

“This is the first time that the world will see a domain name that will cover multiple geographies that will expand over time,” Kavanagh explained. “The strategic importance of this for Ireland is that it is the registry for the whole of Europe and will have significant consequences in terms of localisation work involved and the jobs that will be created in Donegal and Derry in database administration, application processing and legal work. Our plan, if successful, is to accredit key registrars, people who sell domain names and have them report to us. Our aim is to base the entire system on one single database and obviously security will be a key aspect of this.”

Working with Kavanagh on the project is Irish Internet Association CEO Colm O’Reilly, who explained the link-up with Afilias. “Afilias, who currently run the .org and .info domain names, will license its software to run out of Dublin to handle the core registry operation services, including everything from escrow security, hosting and contingency. Afilias is an Irish-registered company and like us it is extremely professional and has kept a low profile. The company’s EPP technology connects every domain seller or registrar with the database and when we accredit a registrar, we give them a piece of software that allows them to access our central database securely. But, overall we keep the ultimate decision on the rewarding of a domain name,” O’Reilly said.

Paul Kavanagh explained that the Irish proposal is for the creation of a not-for-profit organisation. So far, the infrastructure being proposed exists only on paper, but if the bid is successful the consortium aims to roll out the infrastructure rapidly. “So far, no money has been invested in the project, but we have signed papers from a number of major banks guaranteeing to underwrite the entire project if the bid is successful. We have done a costing model for it and have mapped out every cent that will be spent if the project goes ahead. As well as this, four telecommunications firms – Eircom, BT, Nevada and Colt – have agreed to build the network and infrastructure,” he said.

He summed up: “We have been working very quietly on this over the past year and aim to succeed. Whoever wins must not fail as the .eu domain name will be the centerpiece of the EU’s e2005 strategy. This cannot fail. If it fails then we have a problem with European e-commerce.”

By John Kennedy