The Selection of the .eu TLD Registry

 by Philippe Rodhain

On 3 September 2002 the European Commission published in the Official Journal of the European Communities a "CALL FOR EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST FOR THE SELECTION OF THE .eu TLD REGISTRY".

Article 2 of Regulation (EC) No. 733/2002, which came into force on 30 April 2002, defines the future Registry as follows: 

-         "The entity entrusted with the organisation, administration and management of the .eu TLD including maintenance of the corresponding databases and the associated public query services, registration of domain names, operation of the Registry of domain names, operation of the Registry TLD (Top Level Domain) name servers and dissemination of TLD zone files".

The aim of this call for expressions of interest is to solicit applications from organisations interested in participating as candidates for the Registry selection procedure. The ongoing procedure is established on an open call according to the European principles of objectivity, non-discrimination and transparency.

To be eligible, the applicant must fulfil all eight criteria, namely: (i) quality of service (i.e. capacity to manage the .eu), (ii) human and technical resources (qualified personnel), (iii) stability of financial standing, (iv) consultation mechanisms (in relation to the Community and national authorities), (v) representation before and involvement with the international authorities, (vi) impact on the domain name marketplace (compliance with the competition rules), (vii) implementation mechanisms for public policy provisions, and (viii) consideration of the European Environment Agency (E.E.A.) countries and European Union (EU) enlargement. 

The applicants have to show their capacity to organise, administer and manage the .eu TLD following the above EU principles. They primarily must describe the type of structure intended to be put in place and must demonstrate how they could achieve these Registry functions. They likewise have to put forward a possible registrar accreditation procedure, and to indicate means by which they would be able to ensure promotion of the .eu TLD particularly with respect to the EU linguistic diversity. 

This criterion is undoubtedly one of the most important elements in the process of selecting the future Registry. Indeed it will be marked with a maximum of 30 points whereas the other criteria will vary mainly between 5 to 20 points. It is clear that the Commission is very concerned that the highest degree of service should be provided by the Registry to ensure its ultimate success. 

This requirement is to ensure that the future Registry will be able to operate an effective registration management system as well as to cope with urgent day-to-day problems while maintaining a high level of reliability, precision and efficiency, as required by I.C.A.N.N. (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). 

The applicants also need to have a sound financial basis. Accordingly, the quality of the business plan will be taken carefully into account and will be thoroughly analysed by the Commission. Indeed, the contract between the Commission and the Registry will be for a 5-year period which implies that the Registry must show that it can maintain its financial strength to weather whatever contingencies that may appear during this time. In any case the Commission will not provide for needs of the Registry. 

The applicants must demonstrate a skilful way of communicating with other interested parties, public authorities and organisations in particular from the Internet community, and with stakeholders. 

This requirement recognizes the fact that the global network is constantly evolving so that to maintain its competitiveness the Registry must be prepared to consult and to take into consideration views from interested parties. 

This criterion is also one of the most important conditions with a maximum of 30 points. 

The candidates should show how they intend to initiate and to maintain communication and involvement with international and regional Internet related organisations. It can be inferred from this that the EU wishes to be involved in the global network as a major "player" and to be party to the process of its own evolution.  

Nonetheless, the points allotted for this condition are negligible having the minimum threshold of 5 and a maximum of 10 points. 

Consideration will be given to the expected impact that the candidate's proposal would have on competition in this marketplace.

This requirement comes from the fact that the .euTLD should encourage the use of, and access to, the global network and the virtual marketplace by offering this new possibility of registering domain names alongside the existing ccTLDs (Country-Code Top Level Domains) and gTLDs (Generic Top Level Domains). To achieve this target, the applicants should include in their candidature the relevant data relating to the share of sales of members or stakeholders in similar registration activities regionally or globally. 

The Commission will adopt, after consultation with the Registry, several public policy rules. The purpose of these rules will be to establish the implementation and functions of the .eu TLD. 

The Commission will have to determine the public policy principles for the registration of .eu domain names in collaboration with the Registry as well. 

The applicants are thus strongly urged to identify options for the above rules and policy. 

Additionally, the applicants should indicate which options have been used to formulate the revenue-cost model included in the "financial standing" section. 

It is worth noting that this criterion will not only be scored on the basis of the quality of the policy option but also on the quality of the relationship between the revenue-cost model and alternative policy options. 

The candidates logically have to explain how they intend to take into account the forthcoming extension of the Regulation to E.E.A. countries and the potential extension to the countries currently applying to enter into the EU. 

The complete files are to be deposited with the Commission at the latest on 25 October 2002. The successful applicant will be invited to conclude a contract with the Commission for a 5-year period, renewable only once.

Hence, the Commission has set a high passing mark in its efforts to establish a reliable, effective .eu in order to arouse consumer interest in the new ccTLD.  In fact, the present challenge is to convince companies that a shorter, regional-specific domain name extension is far more valuable for branding targets than longer gTLDs (.com, .org, . net, .biz, .info, .net, etc).

Furthermore with the introduction of the Euro currency last year, the EU is undoubtedly gaining a sound regional identity and cohesiveness not seen in other parts of the world. The forthcoming arrival of the .eu will provide EU's companies with the possibility of identifying themselves as European or pan-European companies on the global network. Accordingly, it can be reasonably expected that this new ccTLD will become of specific interest to companies that trade to different parts of the EU.

Copyright 2002 

Philippe Rodhain
Intellectual Property Lawyer

No portion of this article may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author.

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