Tuvalu celebrates domain name deal on stamps

The tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu has immortalized its multimillion-dollar domain name licensing deal on a set of postage stamps.

In April 2000 the country licensed its ".tv" top-level domain suffix to California-based Dot TV Corp. in a deal that guarantees a payment to the nation of at least US$4 million per year for at least 10 years. The country also got a "significant minority" stake in Dot TV.

Tuvalu, a poor nation of about 10,000 people spread across nine atolls with a total area of 10 square miles, relies on subsistence farming and fishing for its income. When it signed the domain-name deal, the country hoped the money would enable it to modernize many aspects of island life, such as building of a modern airport, improvements to a water purification facility and extension of the electricity service to outlying atolls.

"At the moment, a road improvement project is under way," said Marica Seluka, marketing manager of the Tuvalu Philatelic Bureau, which issued the stamps, in an interview. "Anyone who has been to Tuvalu would complain about our terrible roads! Improvement of the roads would make life easier, if not healthier, for all of us."

"As I understand, many more scholarships were awarded as a result of the windfall from '.tv' -- and that means a lot for the future of our nation. Another major accomplishment for the '.tv' in our islands is the electrification of outer islands," she said.

The money also helped the nation achieve another goal in September 2000, when it joined the United Nations. To commemorate the deal, four stamps have been issued. They are based on four main themes, said Seluka. The $0.40 stamp signifies the joy and the gladness of the people with the success of the '.tv' deal and thus makes it a cause for celebration, which is the theme of the $0.60 stamp, she said. The $0.90 stamp shows an islander blowing a conch shell to illustrate the contrast between traditional forms or communication and the Internet, while the $1.50 stamp signifies hope for the future of the island's children.

"The idea to release a stamp issue on this topic came to mind a couple of years ago," said Seluka. "At the time, '.tv' was still virtually unknown. We decided to put it off for a while as we were unsure if it would prove popular or would just fade out -- issues that would greatly affect the sales of the '.tv' stamps. As it is, '.tv' proved to be popular and helped put Tuvalu in the limelight. There was no doubt in our minds that it certainly merited commemorating, and for us at the bureau, what better way to do so than to release a stamp issue on it?"

Tuvalu releases about six commemorative stamp issues per year, although they are not a great money maker for the island. The costs associated with the stamps cover the cost of running the philatelic bureau, but Seluka hopes the selling of stamps will become a major income earner for the nation.

Collectors can order the stamps by sending an e-mail to philatelic@tuvalu.tv, by fax to +688-20712 or via the web at http://members.nbci.com/tuvaluonline/telecom/telecom-index.htm .

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