30 September 2005

WSIS update

Here is an item from today's NY Times (registration required).There continues to be a tug-of-war over the future control over the Internet. At WSIS, this is one of the key issues. Here is a quote:

"The European decision to back the rest of the world in demanding the creation of a new international body to govern the Internet clearly caught the Americans off balance and left them largely isolated at talks designed to come up with a new way of regulating the digital traffic of the 21st century.

"It's a very shocking and profound change of the EU's position," said David Gross, the State Department official in charge of America's international communications policy. "The EU's proposal seems to represent an historic shift in the regulatory approach to the Internet from one that is based on private sector leadership to a government, top-down control of the Internet."

Do you think the locus of control should be private and based in the US?


mohamed said...

I think the locus of control should be private. So far, the tremendous growth of the internet has been primarily due to the fact that it has been based on private sector leadership. Government control tends to bring in bureaucracy, slow pace of growth and development and a tendency of not reaching mutual agreements with other interested parties.

The fact that a part of the internet is supervised by the Department of Commerce is cause for the other countries to feel that they also need to have a say in something that affects them. The internet has grown to be a global phenomenon to a point where it has the capability of impacting the national security of a country. In my view, it is most critical that Internet Regulatory be seen to be independent.

It seems to me that this is a difficult issue to resolve- to be independent and at the same time to cater for the interests of all the stakeholders.

Martin Weiss said...

On the "Cybertel" mailing list, John Levine wrote the following piece. I pass it on to you because I believe it will be helpful to you to get a sense of what is going on ...

There is a great deal of posturing going on.

There are three real players in Internet governance. ICANN is nominally in charge of everything else, and has been the gatekeeper of what goes into the root DNS zone. They're incredibly dysfunctional and have done approximately nothing of importance, which is in practice fine. ICANN exists due to a contract with the US Commerce Department, although they claim to be a worldwide bottom-up consensus based organization which they demonstrate by having meetings in remote places that cost a fortune to get to (but are fun junkets for those of us who get to go.)

The DNS root servers are run by unpaid volunteers (one of them, Verisign, is arguably paid but they're only one out of 12) who have accepted the ICANN root zone, but if ICANN did something really stupid, they probably wouldn't. The operators are technically very sophisticated and do a fine job, better than most people realize, and there are a lot more than 12 actual servers behind the 12 visible server names.

IP address space is allocated by regional IP registries, somewhat coordinated by ICANN, but not to the extent that ICANN can tell them what to do. Despite some moaning and groaning, the RIRs do a good job and most of the complaints are political, little poor countries complaining that they can't get as much IP address space as big rich countries, but they don't actually need any more than they have.

ICANN has amazingly poor political skills and has made some really dumb moves recently, most notably approving the .XXX domain which provoked the US DOC, which hitherto had been happy to let ICANN stumble along on its own, to tell them not to do that. ICANN also approved the .CAT domain for Catalan-speakers, opening a potential Pandora's box of linguistic minority domains. (.KURD, anyone?) This reminded the rest of the world the ICANN belongs to the US, and there happened to be this WSIS process going on at the ITU anyway, so it's not surprising that other countries took the opportunity to say bad things about US control of ICANN and the DNS.

The reality is that commercial Internet users are happy with things the way they are, even in countries whose governments are expressing objections, and the loose connection among ICANN, the RIRs, and the root operators makes it less than obvious what would happen if someone starting giving orders that the established players thought could have bad consequences to the operation of the Internet. (There's no technical problems with .XXX or .CAT, just political ones.) So expect to see more smoke, but not much fire.

Anonymous said...

The Internet governing body; being private and based on one country would lead to biased policies. May be that is good for growth of Internet in the initial stages but the Internet is already a global phenomenon now. It has to be governed by international body where all countries are duly represented. The European Union decision is rational and I support their decision.

Martin Weiss said...

Chip Sharp wrote the following on the Cybertelecom-l list. I believe that this does a pretty good job of summarizing the outcome, based on what I have read.

"Some of the proposals (e.g., the EU's) don't explicitly propose the creation of a new IGO to take over the ICANN/IANA functions. Some support maintenance of current functions with a creation of a new Forum to discuss public policy issues.

"Some proposals (e.g., Africa Group) explicitly propose that the new Forum be operated under the UN system (this effectively means an IGO).

"Some questions left unanswered in the proposals are:
Who would run the new Forum?
What oversight power would it have over the existing institutions?
How much participation would be allowed to private industry and Civil Society?

"But again, please read the source material. There may be more posted as time goes on.

"Also, keep in mind that the Chair's paper is not an indication of agreed or consensus positions of the Prepcom. It is basically the state of the draft as of the end of the Prepcom 3.

Martin Weiss said...

Here is an editorial from the PFF on this subject. The link to the WSJ does not require a subscription (or didn't for me, anyway).