Home / Blogs

A Journey Into the Surreal: The GOP Protecting "Internet Freedom" With 25 Friends

Anthony Rutkowski

Few people would suggest that much of the life in the U.S. national political scene these days has any nexus to the real world. At national election time, the disconnect and hyperbole in Washington get worse. "Unhinged" seems to be a common term. The recently released GOP platform on "protecting internet freedom" followed up by the "twenty-five advocacy groups" letter to Congressional leaders is definitely an unhinged a journey into the land of the clueless.

The recently adopted GOP platform 2016 ludicrously proclaims that

"The survival of the internet as we know it is at risk. Its gravest peril originates in the White House, the current occupant of which has launched a campaign, both at home and internationally, to subjugate it to agents of government. The President...has unilaterally announced America's abandonment of the international internet by surrendering U.S. control of the root zone of web names and addresses. He threw the internet to the wolves, and they — Russia, China, Iran, and others — are ready to devour it." ...We will therefore resist any effort to shift control toward governance by international or other intergovernmental organizations." at 25.

Three weeks later on 10 August, a self-described gaggle of 25 friends of the GOP platform, have tried to support these points in a letter to Congressional leaders "to defend its Power of the Purse — and Internet freedom." The letter rambles somewhat incoherently with a grab bag of Washington rhetoric attempting to prop up the GOP platform variously asserting that

"Ominously, governments will gain a formal voting role in ICANN for the first time....ICANN has already morphed from the technical coordinating body set up in 1998 into something much more like a government...if NTIA allows the contract to lapse, it will have violated federal law… authorize Speaker Ryan to sue to defend its...sole right to dispose of federal property, which the IANA function may well be… Legislators also have a solemn responsibility to future generations to ensure that the future of the Internet is not placed at risk by prematurely ending U.S. oversight."

All of this Washington political babble, however, is utterly disconnected with reality. What is being hyped here is a simple administrative function of parceling out identifiers that underlies almost every telecom and IT standards body. In this case, it is a 40 year old administrative activity supporting one internet technical body, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). For the first two decades, it was paid for and overseen by the USDOD (yes, "agents of government"). For the last two, it has been part of what must be the world's longest institutional transition to privatization in the history of networking - supported through the sale of some of those identifiers. For two decades, it has been still overseen by still more "agents of the U.S. government" in the form of the U.S. Dept. of Commerce.

The absurd descriptions and characterizations inserted into the Republican Platform and its companion letter of 25 supporters underscores just how bereft of reality the rhetoric has become. Parceling out network identifiers found in IETF specifications has no more to do with "internet freedom" than the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) handing out MAC device addresses for attached equipment.

In the real world, nation States have absolute sovereign jurisdiction over the operation and use of electronic communication network infrastructures within their borders. The norm that has been established for the past 166 years by treaties to which every nation is signatory. Internetwork provisioning rides on top of those infrastructures. All of this functions through complex arrays of intergovernmental, national and local governmental, and private commercial agreements. Neither the "future" of this activity nor any "freedoms" depend on some entity administering the identifiers of one technical standards body.

When someone, somewhere in the world, uses some device to access an internet offering, they get their DNS resolution service from that access provider. That local access provider can run the service in any fashion they wish. What web site or other offering the user is connected to is determined by commercial agreements and/or prescribed by a national authority. The assertion in the Republican Platform and companion letter that some former Dept. of Commerce contractors fundamentally determine the provisioning of these services is sheer political fantasy.

What is occurring here is just more of the craziness made fashionable in the current U.S. political scene. As someone who has variously participated in and watched the ongoing process over the past 30 years, it is long past due to get on with this privatization transition and for Congress to leave the professionals at NTIA alone.

By Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC
Follow CircleID on
SHARE THIS POST

If you are pressed for time ...

... this is for you. More and more professionals are choosing to publish critical posts on CircleID from all corners of the Internet industry. If you find it hard to keep up daily, consider subscribing to our weekly digest. We will provide you a convenient summary report once a week sent directly to your inbox. It's a quick and easy read.

I make a point of reading CircleID. There is no getting around the utility of knowing what thoughtful people are thinking and saying about our industry.

Vinton Cerf, Co-designer of the TCP/IP Protocols & the Architecture of the Internet

Share your comments

Clarification Christopher Parente  –  Aug 14, 2016 2:53 PM PDT

Isn't it IANA, not IETF, that maintains the registries? By "identifiers" are you referring to IP addresses?

What is being hyped here is a simple administrative function of parceling out identifiers that underlies almost every telecom and IT standards body. In this case, it is a 40 year old administrative activity supporting one internet technical body, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

Good question Anthony Rutkowski  –  Aug 15, 2016 6:29 AM PDT

Yes, IANA as the secretariat for the IETF is responsible for the registration of all the many hundreds of "names and numbers" established by its RFC specifications. Among those specifications are those for DNS and for IP addresses.  For the IANA, the registration and resolver activity is significantly delegated.

Almost every electronic communication network standards body has similar specifications and arrangements for their identifiers.  "Identifier" is a generic term for tags associated with information objects, e.g., names and numbers.  For example, Rec. ITU-T E.164 establishes a distributed identifier construct similar to DNS for the global public telecommunications network.  In most of these bodies, the Secretariat exists in the same organization; although it is not uncommon to have delegation arrangements to other entities. 

In recent years, Russia has seemed less interested in IANA identifiers and ICANN, and more in an overlay Digital Object Architecture (DOA) that could essentially bypass DNS as a meta resolution system.  A new work item along this line proposed by Russia was just approved in the principal intergovernmental body, the ITU-T.

To post comments, please login or create an account.

Related

Topics

Cybersecurity

Sponsored byVerisign

IP Addressing

Sponsored byAvenue4 LLC

DNS Security

Sponsored byAfilias

New TLDs

Sponsored byAfilias

Domain Names

Sponsored byVerisign