Mixed prognosis for IEDR

23 Sep 2003

A recent survey conducted by the Irish Internet Association (IIA) of its members’ current views of the IEDR (Domain Registry of Ireland), the company that manages Ireland’s top-level domain, shows that there appears to be a greater focus on customer service, with vastly improved responsiveness, greater transparency and more open communications from the IEDR, siliconrepublic.com has learned.

Irene Gahan, CEO of the IIA, said: “The IIA is aware that there is same-day turnaround on new domain registrations, with less bureaucracy in the documentation requirements and a significant relaxation of the previously restrictive rules. The IIA is satisfied with the need to authenticate the claim to a .ie domain name as this conveys commercial credibility and respectability and increases the confidence of Irish consumers to transact online.”

According to Gahan, the IIA focused on the support that the IEDR has given to industry initiatives by implementing anti-spamming procedures during 2003 and the introduction of the dispute resolution policy with the World Intellectual Property Organisation has resulted in more equity, fairness and transparency in resolving disputes over .ie domain names. “The IIA conveyed the highlights of the report to the IEDR and is optimistic about the changes … we will continue to work with the IEDR on behalf of its members,” she said.

“While all aspects are positive, there is still the issue of the pricing and the IIA has called on the IEDR to reduce rates as early as possible to ensure continued growth. The IEDR has committed to reducing rates in 2004 subject to various financial reviews and we look forward to this benefit being passed on to our members and the industry in general,” Gahan concluded.

Currently, the prices for a .ie domain ranges from €49.85 to €150 per annum. In a statement to siliconrepublic.com, the IEDR said it is committed to achieving the highest standards of customer service and excellence. “The IEDR will continue to work with organisations such as the IIA to address the issues raised by its members. During 2003, the IEDR has focused on operational efficiencies and achieved improvements in key performance indicators measuring registration lead times, invoicing accuracy, timeliness of customer response and speed of domain deletion for non-renewal and non-payment. In common with many companies in the sector, the IEDR has significantly reduced its cost base during 2003.
“The IEDR regards the .ie domain as vitally important to industry and to Ireland’s positioning in the information economy. However, the IEDR is only responsible for a small section of the internet value chain. For any business, the price of a domain must not be an impediment to a viable internet-related business proposition,” it added.

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 with full pay.

In the past, the IIA has complained about many aspects of the IEDR such as its financial stability as well as the way the company is managed. In documents released under the FoI Act, in a letter sent to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources 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.

During this period the Irish Computer Society (ICS) expressed an interest to the Department of Communications in taking over the management of the .ie domain name registry in the interest of safeguarding this national asset amid concerns over its management. “Our credentials are second to none in this regard, having been formed in 1967 as the professional body for those working in IT,” CEO Frank Cronin 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 this month, Cronin explained the circumstances of its offer: “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 they 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.”

Also to express 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.

By Lisa Deeney