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Tuesday, 12 December, 2000, 16:07 GMT
Net gains for Tuvalu
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Demand for internet domain names is improving the lives of the inhabitants of the tiny pacific nation of Tuvalu.

In 1998, the country signed over the rights for its .tv internet name to Canadian company Idealab. The deal has seen millions of dollars flow into the nine islands that make up the nation from organisations desperate to have the two letters round off their web address.

The influx of money is paying for a new school and other infrastructure works.

But Tuvalu is only one of several countries cashing in on the resemblance between their internet suffix and common words or phrases.

Island life

Many nations have been assigned a two-letter suffix used to identify websites run or used by companies, organisations and people from that country. Britain's country code suffix is .uk.

Tuvalu's islands
By coincidence some of the country codes resemble common abbreviations, perhaps none more so than .tv which is owned by Pacific island nation of Tuvalu.

After repeated enquiries from speculators and companies, the government of Tuvalu auctioned off the rights to the .tv domain name to a Canadian entrepreneur. In return for permission to use the name, Tuvalu was guaranteed $50m over 10 years and a 15% stake in the company selling rights to domain names ending .tv.

Now, the $1 million per quarter being given to the Pacific nation is starting to change the lives of its 10,600 inhabitants. The nine islands making up the country cover only 24 square kilometres of land but are scattered throughout 1,060,000 square kilometres of the western Pacific.

Food exports

Craig Frances, chief executive of the dotTV company, said the deal had effectively doubled the GDP of Tuvalu. Roads are being laid, outlying islands are being wired up to give them electricity, and a school is being built on the main island.

"Right now all the kids have to go to school on another island and they come back at the weekends," said Mr Frances.

The next big change will be to make it easier to get to and from the main island. Mr Frances said the runway of the Tuvalu's airport was being extended so a 737 could land and take off. This will allow Tuvalu to export food for the first time.

"The land is not fertile at all," he said. "The only way they can make money is through fishing and fishing licences."

UN membership

The deal with dotTV also allows Tuvalu to end links with the phone sex services that it previously used to make money. In return for a cut of profits, Tuvalu used to lease its 688 phone code to phone sex companies, a policy that troubled its Christian population.

The money has also been used to fund Tuvalu's membership of the UN which demands annual fees of $20,000. Tuvalu became the 189th member of the UN on 5 September this year.

Tuvalu is just one of many nations cashing in on the fact that its country code resembles a well-known phrase.

Others include Moldavia (.md), Turkmenistan (.tm), Niue (.nu), Philippines (.ph) and Tonga (.to). So far .tv is proving the most popular and around 170,000 organisations have registered a domain name with dotTV.

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See also:

06 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Tiny Tuvalu joins UN
18 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
High tides threaten Tuvalu
10 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Students killed in Tuvalu fire
26 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Winterson wins on web
17 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
Doubts surround new domain names
17 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
Web address battle looms
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