Vital Battle For Internet

A battle for the soul of the Internet | Perspectives | CNET News.com

Without much publicity, a critical battle over the future of the Internet is going on.

It concerns who will be responsible for managing the complex set-up of numbers, addresses and domain names that makes the Internet what it is.

Presently, this is done by an organisation called ICANN. Leaving all technicalities aside, it’s an example of self-regulation and self-organisation that, despite some flaws, works amazingly well.

It’s driven by the strong ethos still there from the founding days of the modern Internet.

But now governments in the former of the global ITU body wants to take over. They set the standards for the telegraph and the telephone, but they are left out of the Internet area. No wonder they are fighting…

The battle is more than a bureaucratic turf battle.

It’s a battle of philosophy – is global self-governing of this sort possible and desirable? It’s a battle of control – with governments in the driving seats things might be different.

It’s – in short – a battle that should concern us.

I believe I have a fair amount of experience of both the UN system and the ICANN system, having worked in and for both of them.

In my view, the UN is an an idea and an organisatgion worth protecting and preserving.

But I certainly would not have the UN running everything in the world. It would be horrible. And I don’t see any valid reasons whatsoever of dismantling the model for global self-regulation of a key sector that ICANN represents.

2 Responses to Vital Battle For Internet

  1. Björn Hallberg skriver:

    Regardless of how nice ICANN seems, and how many of its staff is by definition international, and what contempt Elliot Noss has for the UN, we still come back to the issue of the ”Internet root” being located in the US. ICANN being essentially a front for the US Dept of Commerce (DoC). Despite Noss’s nonsensical ranting, ICANN’s hardware is still physically present in the US and so is its overseers.

    Strategically, it’s not such a great idea to have one root choke point located in one country, especially when that country is the US. The problem here is of course that we can’t make them turn over the system and I’d be very surprised if the US would actually surrender power to the UN. If so happens, it must be a fluke and the result of uninformed politicians that don’t understand the system.

    Noss speaks of ”balkanization.” But why would ”whole portions of the network decide they did not want to rely on the United Nations and the ITU.” They rely on the US and ICANN as it is. And many aren’t happy with that.
    The balkanization in question is likely the US, breaking away from the known Internet in a dark, dystopic vision where they have been forced to give up ICANN. In the end, no one but the US minds UN oversight.

    This sounds to me a bit like the GPS story and we know how that turned out (Galileo).

    About abusing the net, making policy and playing into the hands of corporations, which Noss seems sort of worried about, ICANN did impose rules against so called cyber-squatting. I.e. protecting third-party trademark holders, even though it’s none of their business and not their job. Something that I see as a policy trickling down from the US DoC. They also make the creation of new TLDs a hassle.

    One should look into decentralized DNS management as far as possible. Learn a thing or two from the P2P revolution. Not balkanization of course but a sophisticated network of nodes. Not that any of the mentioned organizations would agree to that since it would also decentralize power. And we can’t have that obviously. ”The people who own it ought to govern it” and all that. Sigh. At any rate we should avoid commercializing the system. That would spell the end for the idea of the Internet and really ”balkanize” the world.
    The best thing to do would be to set up a worldwide set of free, not-for-profit nodes that interoperate, and let ICANN and ITU monitor the network. A little redundancy never hurt anyone.

    It’s worth bringing up Karl Auerbach also. And some of the complaints he has voiced over the years …
    He has some good ideas. The problem is that he has talked about a free market system where private companies would take over the task and even promise not to provide certain types of sites (= censorship)

    Put simply I have every confidence that this can only turn out for the worse.

  2. Carl Bildt skriver:

    It’s not quite true that the entire ”Internet root” is located in the US.

    There are 13 so called root servers that in a way run the Internet, and not all of them are in the US.

    As a matter of fact, one of them is located in Sweden.

    If worst comes to worst, the entire Internet can be run for some time on only one of them. This means that there is a very considerable redundancy and security in the system.

    ICANN is certainly not a front for the US Departement of Commerce, although there is a link due to the origin of the Internet. It’s also true that one of the root servers have some functions in addition to the others, and that this one is located in the US.

    But there has been a deliberate attempt to build ICANN into a global body with representatives of all the different stake-holders in the system, and with a governance system with a very high degree of transparency.

    The system has certainly had its dissidents – Karl Auerbach among them – but basically it has functioned rather OK. It has resisted both commercial and political pressures – sometimes also of the heavy nature.

    That’s why I believe the system is worth preserving – as well as developing.

    To hand it over to a governmental body in the UN system is bound to make things far less flexible, substantially less transparent and far more open to different sorts of political pressure.

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