The European Commission has issued a call for tender (PDF) for an EU DNS resolution service aka a DNS resolver.
As a reminder, a DNS resolver is what computers and other devices use to find out where websites, domains and other services “live” on the internet. They’re most often accessed via their IP addresses. So Google’s public DNS is at 184.108.40.206, Quad 9’s at 220.127.116.11 and so on. Better quality DNS resolvers give users a better online experience, as services will load faster, as DNS resolution speed has a noticeable impact on performance.
The European Commission manages several projects related to the overall concept of digital Europe. Though why exactly they’d want to get into the DNS resolution business is probably causing some people to scratch their heads.
There is of course a rationale behind this project:
a) Offer a high-end alternative to existing dominant non-EU public resolvers, leading to a more resilient, more secure and diversified DNS resolution offering for EU internet users. b) Autonomy of DNS resolving, diminishing the dependency on major public resolvers established outside the EU, and reducing vulnerability to outages of these resolvers. c) Complete safeguards for EU internet users that their data and privacy are protected and handled according to EU rules. d) Increased protection against malicious activities based on both global and local (EU) threat feeds and intelligence. e) Testing and deploying innovative technologies to enhance internet access security and privacy
My read on that is that they’re hoping to get an EU owned and operated player to run this service and thus compete against the global players in the space. While I’m sure a lot of us would love to see EU owned companies competing in many spaces you can’t simply generate a viable competitor. And any competitor would need to win over the market in order for them to be viable long term. Which is why some of the other requirements in the tender could cause the more tech savvy to question things.
Of course the announcement is not a complete surprise, as the project has been a topic of discussion for the last year or so and it’s been often called “DNS4EU”. Back in June of last year CENTR reported on it.
So who is this for and what will it do?
According to the documents published a few days ago it’s meant to be used by pretty much everyone from business to personal users. It’s expected to be “easy” to use and setup for both personal and business users.
However, it’s not at all clear why users would suddenly start using the DNS service, but maybe I’m being a little cynical?
The proposal documents include plenty of details on the technical aspects of the service, as you’d expect. However there are several bits within it that would raise an eyebrow from DNS geeks.
For example, the service is meant to support blocking domains at a national level, which many DNS purists would take issues with.
They’re also expecting it to be both diverse AND to process personal data in the EU.
On the positive side they are expecting it to be support IPv4 and IPv6 as well as all the latest DNS technologies.
The project is expected to be funded to the tune of 14 million Euro for the initial 3 years. However that funding is not for the cost of running the infrastructure! (Yeah that confused me too!)
You can read the high level over view here as well as downloading the full set of documents.
UPDATE: The EC is holding a workshop with interested parties to assist with their applications for this and other projects on January 19th from 0930 to 1400 CET. Full details here.