Tuvalu wants more money for its internet domain | Pacific Beat

Tuvalu wants more money for its internet domain

Tuvalu wants more money for its internet domain

Updated 15 February 2012, 13:19 AEDT

Tuvalu wants more money for its real estate.

Not terra firma real estate - but rather its own virtual patch on the Internet.

Tuvalu owns the domain name dot-tv, which American company Verisign manages and sells as website addresses. It is a dispute that has gone on for years - but with new changes coming to the Internet soon, the island nation may be left stranded with little bargaining power.

Presenter: Matt Abud

Speaker: Tuvalu's Finance Minister Lotoala Metia; Adrian Kinderis, Ausregistry International CEO

ABUD: Tuvalu got dot-tv as its domain name, when these were handed out by internet administrator IANA. It signed over the rights in 1999, and now Verisign manages the domain with a contract until 2016. In Tuvalu's tiny economy, Verisign looms large. The government gets around $2.2 million each year from royalties - although that fluctuates a lot. That is almost ten per cent of the government's total revenue, according to the Asian Development Bank. And an original down-payment for the domain helped pave the country's roads, and funded other key infrastructure.

But Finance Minister Lotoala Metia says for struggling Tuvalu, that's nothing like enough.

METIA: What we have been trying to do is to try to negotiate for an increase in the annual distributions we are getting from them. But the problem with that, we are tied down with the current agreement which expires in 2016, so unless we come to 2016, we cannot actually rewrite any figures or any amount.

ABUD: Right now the government has suspended negotiations, pending national elections later this year. Mr Metia says Verisign has offered one-million dollars a year more, but only if they extend the agreement for five extra years.

METIA: We don't have a claim in mind, but we just felt that amount is not enough, it is too small, so we are waiting for a better deal, better counter offer before we decide we will take it on board on not.

ABUD: According to the blog thedomains-dot-com, in a recent auction Verisign sold the name business-dot-tv for over one-hundred-thousand US dollars. Learn-dot-tv went for forty thousand dollars, and jobs-dot-tv for twenty thousand. One hundred and fifteen names in total were sold in the auction. Verisign declined to talk to Radio Australia but did send a comment from its Sydney office.

"Verisign is very proud of its long standing relationship with the government of Tuvalu, but it is not in a position to comment any further around ongoing business or financial discussions with said government in relation to dot-tv".

Ausregistry International is something like an Australian version of Verisign - it operates the dot-au domain. Adrian Kinderis is the company's CEO. In his opinion, Tuvalu gets a good deal.

KINDERIS: Well, I think that Verisign have leveraged their position in the market. They run dot-com and so therefore have a pretty big network of resellers that they have built up out of dot-com. They have invested quite a bit, so I think that whilst it is easy to say well, they made x-million dollars on top of it, well they were the ones that took the risk also and were guaranteeing Tuvalu a base line amount of money. It could have fallen flat on its face.

ABUD: Dot-tv isn't the only popular country domain name. Recently-independent Montenegro has dot-me which opens the possibility for sites like date-me or meet-me.

Mr Kinderis also thinks Tuvalu's time is running out.

KINDERIS: ICANN, the internet corporation has signed names and numbers are opening up for the possibility for anyone to have a top level domain mean dot anything they want. So it may be that we soon have dot-film or dot-television, spelled television, which would be deliberately for these rather than being an offshoot from a country code.

ABUD: So that would also mean that Tuvalu may quite well have limited time in which to renegotiate any deal which it wants to do, because it could actually be obsolete?

KINDERIS: You are exactly right. I would think that the leverage that they are having is diluting by the day as we approach the event horizon of the introduction of new generic top level domain.

ABUD: That doesn't mean all the funds will dry up. Individual businesses have paid good money to build up their dot-tv websites and they'll keep paying annual fees. But it will be a lot less than the profits made from selling new addresses each year. Tuvalu may push for a greater share in payment but real estate on the internet is about to get much bigger and make the island of dot-tv look a whole lot smaller.

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