Confronting the bureaucratic beast – registering an Italian domain

Herein, I present a glimpse into the maw of Italian bureaucracy, as seen while attempting to register a domain name, welton.it, for my own use. It’s well known that in Italy there are so many laws and regulations that many people simply ignore them, and don’t look askance at others that, say, don’t pay their taxes. One would hope that something more modern and high tech – and perhaps associated with younger generations who would like things to change – like the internet would not be so awash in procedures, but that proved to not be the case.

My goal was simply to register the welton.it domain for myself and my wife Ilenia. I’m not an Italian national, but I do reside in Europe, and thus, according to the rules, ought to be allowed one (and only one!) .it domain. For those not familiar with these things, registering a .com domain costs about $10, and takes roughly 10 minutes if you’ve done it before and know what to do. What follows is what I went through to register the domain, starting in early May.

  • May 9th – I pick a “domain name registrar” in Italy that I’d used before to register a client’s site, and fill out everything necessary to complete the procedure, at which point I download a form that was to be filled out and faxed (yes, in 2007, faxed) to what is known in Italy as the “Authority” (in English!), which I do the next day.

  • May 23rd – Apparently, my initial request had been rebuffed, as I wrote my name as David N. Welton in one place, when it needed to be written in its extended, complete form, David Nathan Welton.

  • May 30th – Since I don’t have a fax at home, I use the one in a local phone shop / internet cafe run by friendly Turkish immigrants. I go in to resend the fax, however the number in Italy doesn’t work. I go back a few more times that day and there’s nothing to be done, I can’t send it.

  • May 31st – The Turks are beginning to think that I’m kind of slow witted for continuing to attempt to send a fax to a number that obviously doesn’t work, after several more tries today. At this point, I email the completed form to the registrar and ask them to fax it, since it seems like it won’t be possible from here.

  • June 1st – The “Authority” refuses my request again (doubtless satisfied that they have defended their precious domain name from a dirty foreigner), indicating that I need to insert my Austrian social security number (well, the equivalent), which isn’t possible, since I haven’t been in Austria long enough for their own bureaucracy to have excreted one for me. However, since I’ve been in Italy a while, I do have a valid “codice fiscale”, which should be all they need, which I indicate to the registrar, who replies with a stunning bit of logic: “your codice fiscale must be false, because you do not reside in Italy”. I wonder if he thinks they evaporate when you cross the border?

  • June 13th – After more back and forth, I decide it’s time to change registrars in the hopes of finding one with a little bit more mental acuity – while I understand that it’s the job of the “Authority” to defend their precious, precious domains from the barbarian hordes, since I’m paying the registrar, he ought to be giving me a hand, not accusing me of making up legal documents.

  • June 13th – I sign up with the new registrar, and fill out the appropriate forms, and get a new form to fax to the “Authority”.

  • June 13th – The Turks look at me funny, because of course the fax doesn’t go through.

  • June 13th – I tell this to the new registrar, who agrees to receive The Document via email and send it on to the registrar.

  • June 14th – I send an email in the evening asking if there has been any word from the “Authority” regarding my humble request.

  • June 15th – Apparently, according to the registrar, I need to indicate my address and city in Austria in its “long form”. On the document, I’d written NameOfOurstrasse 42, 6020, Innsbruck, Austria. As far as I can tell, the name of the city, long or short form is Innsbruck, in whatever language you care to speak, be it German, English or Italian. So I ask for guidance as to what the long form of Innsbruck might be.

  • June 15th – Replying the same day, the registrar states that they must have the coordinates in the form municipality and province (two letters). That is not how the Austrians codify things, and in any case, I reply to them that the city is still “Innsbruck, Austria”, and they can put whatever two letters they feel like, although the license plates here simply use “I”. I also suggest that, to expedite things, perhaps we could simply use the address of my wife’s family in Padova, if the idea of a non-Italian address is simply too mentally taxing for the “Authority”.

  • June 19th – I inquire to learn if there is any news from the “Authority”.

  • June 20th – The registrar writes back that there is a new element in the puzzle: “in the case of physical persons who are foreigners, the ‘codice fiscale’ field may contain the number of an identifying document” (presumably a passport). I reply that, having lived and worked in Italy, I have a codice fiscale that is perfectly valid and that it should suffice, thankyou very much.

  • June 20th – The “Authority” will settle for nothing less than having my passport number attached to the request.

  • June 22nd – I find a place to scan a copy of my passport, and send that in, along with everything else. And Europe was supposed to set an example of “privacy” in terms of one’s personal information… These guys have my passport, my address, my codice fiscale, name, phone number and email address.

  • June 25th – Once again, I ask the registrar if any progress has been made.

  • June 26th – They reply that they’re waiting on the “Authority”.

  • On the 27th of June, Two Thousand and Seven, the “Authority” has, in its benevolent omnipotence, by the power vested in it from the dark depths of the Italian political system, granted me permission to use the domain welton.it.

  • June 28th – Unfortunately, however, the domain doesn’t actually well… work in the sense of going to the web server I set up for it. Since I know what I’m doing in terms of setting these things up, I doublecheck my configurations and suggest to the registrar that perhaps they could look into it. They promptly reply that it’s probably the fault of the DNS management system that I use (although they manage upwards of 100,000 domains seemingly without problems…).

  • June 29th – Still not working, and the registrar isn’t answering my emails.

  • July 2nd – The registrar states that they managed to get things working (without quite admitting that they were responsible for fudging things). At long last, www.welton.it points to my web server!

So, in the end, we have 10 minutes vs 2 months to register a domain – no wonder even my Italian friends thought I was not acting rationally in bothering with a .it domain. Along the way, I had thoughts of giving up, but at a certain point I realized that I needed to see the process through, out of intellectual curiosity, if nothing else.

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