Government Relations

History of the .nu domain

Hiapo, 246 x 200cm, dated 18 July, 1888, Auckland Institute and Museum

Hiapo, 246 x 200cm, dated 18 July, 1888, Auckland Institute and Museum

In the late 1990s, the founder of the internet on Niue, Bill Semich, advised the Government of Niue that the .nu domain had not been delegated to anyone.

When the Government of Niue told him that that it didn’t wish to apply for delegation, he applied to the organisation that regulates the internet, for the delegation on behalf of the Internet Users Society – Niue. The Society is now known as The IUSN Foundation. This delegation was first recognised by the Government of Niue in 1999.

Mr Semich, who is based in Massacheusetts USA, set up a business selling .nu domain names, mainly to users in Sweden where ‘nu’ means ‘now’. He offered, and the Government of Niue agreed, for some of the profits from this business to be used to establish a least-cost internet service for the Government and people of Niue. That service now operates under the name of Internet Niue.

IUSN approved by the Government of Niue

The free internet services provided by The IUSN Foundation to the Government of Niue have at times been a political football. That is the nature of politics.

Behind the scenes, however, the government has welcomed and officially authorised these services.

Internationally, about 80-90% of country code top level domain names are run by non-government entities including private companies, incorporated societies and charitable foundations, which is the case with Niue. So Niue is not unusual in this respect.

Since 1997 Internet Niue has made significant investments in internet infrastructure and services for Niue, in line with the standards laid down by ICANN, the international body that regulates the internet.

Commission of Enquiry findings

Once Mr Semich and his team had established a viable business marketing .nu domain names, some elements in the Government of Niue decided they wanted to manage the .nu domain themselves.

They argued that country code domain names belong by right to the government of the country with which they are associated and that Mr Semich had been improper in acquiring the designation.

A Niue Government Official Commission of Enquiry under Justice Ongley was set up to look at these claims. In 2005 the commission ruled that these claims were incorrect.

It said domain names are not sovereign property, that IUSN had legitimately obtained the right of delegation and was managing the domain responsibly.

Yet there is still a handful of people on Niue who want to wrest a change in delegation from The IUSN Foundation to the Government of Niue.

To advance their cause they have made a number of unsubstantiated allegations which are intended to discredit the Foundation and .nu Domain Limited.

We would prefer to put these disputes behind us. Internet Niue has recently offered to work with the Government of Niue in a number of areas, including assisting them with their tourism development strategy. Time and money spend defending the IUSN position means less funding is available to support internet services for the people of Niue.