The government has its proposals for regulating and possibly taking control of the IE Domain Registry (MS Word document containing links to relevant sections) out for consultation at the moment. Responses to the consultation have to be in before 20 January 2006. The relevant text is also reproduced at the bottom of this post.
I have now been actively involved with issues around the governance of the IE domain for longer than anyone, and my personal opinion is this. I am very sad that the Irish Internet community in general and the boards of UCD and IE Domain Registry Ltd. in particular have allowed things to end up in this sorry state where an outside regulator has to be given powers to enforce its will on the system. As a community we should get together and sort this out. We shouldn’t have to wait for the government to come in and regulate our mess for us. Government involvement will ultimately result in more red tape, slower progress during a time of rapid technological change and higher costs.
I am very concerned about how the IE Domain Registry is governed (see what I have written about the issue previously on the IE Domain Registry Ltd’s own website and on this site. I have been particularly concerned since University College Dublin, which is the body charged with operating the IE Domain delegated the responsibility to a private company under the control of a group of UCD staff, former staff and graduates without any democratic process and without any community oversight.
The operation of the IE domain by this private company (IE Domain Registry Ltd.) seems to consist of continuous antics. Only this Wednesday, a person working in the industry called me to express his concern about sudden recent changes in the way wholesale charges for domain names are structured. I don’t have all the facts available to me to determine whether this concern is justified, because all the consultations and deliberations of IE Domain Registry Ltd. are conducted completely in private, out of site of the general Internet community.
I have written to IE Domain Registry Ltd. to clarify simple questions about corporate governance and the composition of the board by email and even by registered letter, and the company refuses to even do me the courtesy of acknowledging the correspondence.
Last year, it became apparent that a member of IEDR Ltd’s staff was wholesaling domain names on his own account, at below the wholesale cost. On that occasion, the company confirmed that this was the case, but could not seem to see that this placed the company in obvious commercial conflict with its own resellers
Before that, the Registry became involved in a complex and expensive litigation in the High Court with its previous chief executive, which it eventually had to settle out of court.
The retail charges for a .ie domain name are still very high by international standards. The actual wholesale price of a domain name is kept secret from the general public. At the same time, the registry appears to be highly profitable and cash-generating.
It is very important that anyone who is involved with the administration of .ie domains or is concerned about the registry should read the proposals and consider making a submission. There is still time for the community and if possible, UCD and IE Domain Registry Ltd. to come together and sort this out. I would welcome any feedback from anyone with a view on the subject.
The relevant text from the heads of a bill in the consultation document issued by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources is as follows.
Part 5 – Regulation of the IEDR
Head 12 – Regulation of the Internet .ie Domain Name by ComReg
12.1 ComReg may by Regulation provide for:
– the transfer of powers, in relation to the regulation of the .ie domain name, vested in the Minister to ComReg
– access by ComReg to the .ie domain name database on an ongoing basis
– the creation of an offence, where the operator of the Internet .ie domain name, fails to comply with regulations introduced by ComReg.
Provide for increase of summary fine under subsection (3) of Section 31 of the above Act to €5,000.
Section 31 of the Electronic Commerce Act, 2000 provides powers to the Minister to make regulations in respect of the management of the .ie domain name. To date the Minister has not made any such regulations. The purpose of this Section is to transfer the Minister’s powers to ComReg and for the creation of an offence where the operator of the .ie domain name fails to comply with regulations introduced by ComReg. The Section also intends to provide ComReg with access to the .ie domain database to ensure that the list of registered users is at all times kept up to date and functioning on the Internet.