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If It's About to Break, Fix It!

Ian Peter

The UN's WSIS Prepcomm in Geneva has ended on a divided note. The US Government's Ambassador Gross pre-announced war-cry "The United Nations will not be in charge of the Internet. Period." had been met by a nearly unanimous global response from nations for some sort of government control of the Internet on a multilateral basis. A raft of proposals to alter the current situation are on the table — most of them fairly benign, but none supportive of the indefinite continuance of unilateral US control of the root zone authorisation.

To many of us living outside the US, US unilateral control of the root zone is unacceptable-period. (apologies to Ambassador Gross) . All the arguments advanced that change might somehow create a problem with Internet security and stability are not based on any rational assessment of what would happen if change in root zone authorization were to occur — rather on fear. The continued control by USA might have a rationale in commerce, but not in Internet stability.

So what if the US holds out in the face of a large body of international opinion? Will that create a secure and stable situation?

Clearly the answer is no. If security and stability is the concern, change has to occur to create such a situation. The Internet will be broken if no change occurs (see numerous previous articles on CircleID on this, including my "ICANN needs a good root” for background and a summation of the likelihood of multiple roots should the current stand off continue).

I am concerned by the continued attitude of "Internet insiders" that, after all, WSIS is a waste of our precious time, we have more important things to do, things are all fine and dandy as they are, and "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

I say, if it's about to break, fix it. We are now beyond a situation in which a stable secure Internet will continue with US unilateral control. Like it or not, that won't happen. The more we try to wriggle away from governments, the more they will want to take control.

The "Internet community" and bodies such as ICANN as ISOC need to face reality here. There is no stability in the status quo. It's time to engage rather than oppose, to suggest rather than resist, and to create tomorrow's Internet rather than defend yesterday's one.

By Ian Peter. More blog posts from Ian Peter can also be read here.

Related topics: DNS, ICANN, Security

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Re: If It's About to Break, Fix It! The Famous Brett Watson  –  Oct 03, 2005 3:32 PM PST

Politics isn't my game, so I'm not going to hazard a guess as to how soon the unity of the DNS root will break. What needs emphasis is this: unity is only maintained through mutual cooperation. There are plenty of people in a position to break ranks and thus break unity, and the USA is doing plenty to provoke such a break. The only thing holding back such a move is that it would be disruptive — like revolutions and civil wars are disruptive. Still, revolutions can be precipitated if you deny enough people legitimate representation for long enough. Who does ICANN legitimately represent?

Re: If It's About to Break, Fix It! Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Oct 03, 2005 4:54 PM PST

What, you mean the blogosphere and the ranters on how prepcom3 sucks and the ITU sucks, and that the ITU cant even run a conference wireless network properly, and they want to run the INTERNET?!?!?!? type people are all "internet insiders"?  Add to that the *watch.org sites that should go rename themselves to *bashers.org - quite often with blinkers on their collective eyes :)

The status quo aint going to work but the changed position isnt going to be too much different from the status quo either. Country level ip address allocation, alternate root servers etc are complete nonstarter ideas .. but

* Better and more improved icann governance

* Possible further involvement of countries in the RIR process, setup LIRs to help local ISPs get IP space from people who accept money in the same currency, speak the same language and are local .. etc

* More anycast root server instances - africa has very few of these, lots more needed

* General improvement of other ICT issues and more international cooperation at practical levels rather than gamesmanship at the highest levels (though nothing can stop that)

* MOST IMPORTANT - cooperation and coordination rather than infighting

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/5/47/34935342.pdf for instance is not all about spam, does cover / have a bearing on quite a few of these things as well.

Re: If It's About to Break, Fix It! Peter Bachman  –  Oct 09, 2005 7:37 PM PST

The official comments below:

"it is important that the global community recognize that the existing structures have worked effectively to make the Internet the highly robust and geographically diverse medium that it is today. The security and stability of the Internet must be maintained".

The Internet has gone from a scientific and academic curiosity to a "medium" in a short span of years.  The standards that are underneath that medium are very low error telecommunications protocols, which in fact have already been under international standards for a long time. During that time there has been a great deal of policy making in regards to the infrastucture used at lower layers to carry tcp-ip packets. While IP can run using carrier pigeons, most people would prefer higher speed access.

There is a role that governments can play, and that has nothing to do with unilateral control. Issues like infrastructure development, human rights, freedom of expresssion, security and stability, have to be accomplished within a framework which in fact can enforce a nation's policy towards same. That means first building a national policy so that internet users that interact with U.S. facilities are uniformly respected in terms of their rights. The only way to do this is to ensure compliance with the existing and future design contracts of internet users. DNS is not really the framework in which one can enforce policy, ip networks are simply a matter of assigning pre-fixes that establish the uniqueness of ip addressing.

The Internet is a global network, here in the U.S. we can define a policy which respects
user rights, but we also have to enforce that policy. In order to do that, a policy defining, and lookup mechanism must exist across all connected IT systems.

Peter Bachman

Re: If It's About to Break, Fix It! Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Oct 09, 2005 7:50 PM PST

Sorry if I seem dense, Peter - but whose official comments were those that you quoted?


Re: If It's About to Break, Fix It! Peter Bachman  –  Oct 10, 2005 7:00 AM PST

Sorry I did not provide the reference Ian.

Document WSIS-II/PC-3/CONTR/035-E

"COMMENTS ON THE REPORT OF THE WGIG" United States of America dated August 17, 2005
"Comments of the United States of America on Internet Governance"


Generally the entire text has to do with general issues but "security and stability" is the part that generally gets quoted.

Re: If It's About to Break, Fix It! Ian Peter  –  Oct 10, 2005 11:18 AM PST

Yep, the "security and stability" mantra is universally quoted in WSIS documents (as if the Internet was secure and stable, but that's another discussion).

What differs is what people think needs to happen to maintain "security and stability". I would argue that no change whatsoever is probably the least secure and stable option now, given the level of interest and passion being raised at the UN and elsewhere. No change in US unilateral control is likely to lead to split roots and variations on national control. A change in structure along sensible lines such as those advanced by UK on behalf of the European Union, on the other hand, is likely to provide a more stable future and avoid the excesses some countries have been suggesting. 

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