Stuart (via Nettime) — EU says internet could fall apart

Topic(s): Internet | Comments Off on Stuart (via Nettime) — EU says internet could fall apart

[The problem with the ‘walled garden’ approach is that users often are
penalised either by no interconnection, high interconnect fees (due to
monopoly power of service providers over gateways), sluggish performance,
and restricted functionality. This issue has been coming to a head for
years. ICANN does suck – the potential for government abuse sucks too. The
real problem here seems to be the existence of a central core. The real
solution, therefore is to remove the central core from the DNS. At the end
of the day, the root servers are single points of failure and ripe for
attack. The DNS must be redesigned to make it completely distributed,
improving resiliency and security while also removing the problem of who
gets to be King. More articles on this here:
– Stu]
EU says internet could fall apart
Developing countries demand share of control US says urge to censor
underlies calls for reform
Richard Wray Wednesday October 12, 2005 The Guardian
A battle has erupted over who governs the internet, with America demanding
to maintain a key role in the network it helped create and other countries
demanding more control.
The European commission is warning that if a deal cannot be reached at a
meeting in Tunisia next month the internet will split apart.
At issue is the role of the US government in overseeing the internet’s
address structure, called the domain name system (DNS), which enables
communication between the world’s computers. It is managed by the
California-based, not-for-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers (Icann) under contract to the US department of commerce.
A meeting of officials in Geneva last month was meant to formulate a way of
sharing internet governance which politicians could unveil at the
UN-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis on November
16-18. A European Union plan that goes a long way to meeting the demands of
developing countries to make the governance more open collapsed in the face
of US opposition.
Viviane Reding, European IT commissioner, says that if a multilateral
approach cannot be agreed, countries such as China, Russia, Brazil and some
Arab states could start operating their own versions of the internet and the
ubiquity that has made it such a success will disappear.
“We have to have a platform where leaders of the world can express their
thoughts about the internet,” she said. “If they have the impression that
the internet is dominated by one nation and it does not belong to all the
nations then the result could be that the internet falls apart.”
The US argues that many of the states demanding a more open internet are no
fans of freedom of expression.
Michael Gallagher, President Bush’s internet adviser and head of the
national telecommunications and information administration, believes they
are seizing on the only “central” part of the system in an effort to exert
control. “They are looking for a handle, thinking that the DNS is the
meaning of life. But the meaning of life lies within their own borders and
the policies that they create there.”
The US government, which funded the development of the internet in the 60s,
said in June it intended to retain its role overseeing Icann, reneging on a
pledge made during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Since Icann was created, the
US commerce department has not once interfered with its decisions.
David Gross, who headed the US delegation at the Geneva talks, said untested
models of internet governance could disrupt the 250,000-plus networks, all
using the same technical standards (TCP/IP), which allows over a billion
people to get online for 27bn daily user sessions.
“The internet has been a remarkably reliable and stable network of networks
and it has grown at a rate unprecedented in human history,” he said. “What
we are looking for is a continued evolution of the internet that is
technically driven. We do not think the creation of new or use of existing
multilateral institutions in the governance of essentially technical
institutions is a way to promote technological change.”
‘Valuable dot’
According to Emily Taylor, director of legal and policy issues at Nominet,
which oversees the address categories such as .co or .org – root zone files
known as top-level domain names – bearing Britain’s .uk suffix, the spat in
Geneva was “all about the root – the valuable dot at the end of domain
At present Icann decides what new top-level domain names to create and who
should run the existing domains, in consultation with a panel called the
Governmental Advisory Committee. In practice the GAC exerts more pressure on
Icann than the US department of commerce ever has. It was at the GAC’s
urging that a recent request to create more top-level domain names was
reviewed. The commerce department does have the power to clear Icann’s
Icann’s president, Paul Twomey, shares many of the US government concerns.
He is adamant that his organisation should be allowed to evolve rather than
be brushed aside in favour of some untried model of state-led internet
“We are firmly committed to a multi-stakeholder approach,” he said. “We
expect to evolve, we expect to keep changing. We are concerned about
stability [of the internet] and we think it’s best to evolve existing
institutions. Our present corporate structure is a matter of history, not of
any particular design.”
But designing new structures is exactly what the international community
seems intent on doing. At one end of the spectrum are Iran, Pakistan and
other so-called control-oriented states that want to create a new governing
council for the web to which Icann would be accountable. The remit of this
council seems broad enough to include questions of content, a worry for
advocates of free speech on the web.
Two week’s ago the EU proposed its own structure, which consists of what it
calls a “cooperation model” to deal with Icann and a forum which would allow
governments, interested organisations and industry to discuss internet
issues and swap best practice.
“What we are talking about is a governance structure that is extremely
lightweight, where the government oversight of internet functions is limited
just to the list of essential tasks,” said one EU negotiator.
While the forum “does not decide anything, it is a place where people can
come to a view and generally participate in thinking about the internet and
the way it is governed”.
The EU plan was applauded by states such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, leading
the former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt to express misgivings on his
weblog: “It seems as if the European position has been hijacked by officials
that have been driven by interests that should not be ours.
“We really can’t have a Europe that is applauded by China and Iran and Saudi
Arabia on the future governance of the internet. Even those critical of the
United States must see where such a position risks taking us.”
But EU negotiators are adamant that they reject calls for state control of
the content of the internet. “None of this is about content and that is a
big difference between the EU position and the position of China and
Brazil,” the negotiator said. “The proposals that came from Brazil and the
others to amend our own proposal were not acceptable, they were trying to
drag us closer to their position. We are very alive to that.”
Calls from Argentina for a continuing debate while Icann is restructured are
believed to have garnered support from countries such as Canada which do not
like the perceived power that the US has over the internet but are wary of
opening up the web to overall state control.
Just before the meeting in Tunis, there will be a three-day gathering of
bureaucrats to try to thrash out a deal on internet governance. Getting the
parties – especially the US – to agree to anything looks like a near
impossible task but Mrs Reding believes it is crucial to find common ground
or see the global communication network disintegrate.
The firm US stand makes that prospect of an end to ubiquity seem imminent.
Although any decision from the Tunis summit would have no legal standing,
the current deal between Icann and the US government is due to come to an
end in September next year, by which time the organisation is supposed to be
made independent under the deal made during the Clinton presidency.
Mr Gallagher said that after the Tunis meeting there will be further
discussion with governments and the private sector about the future of the
organisation. “But we are not going to bureaucratise, politicise and retard
the management of the DNS. Period,” he said. “That will not happen. We will
not agree to it in November and we will not do it in September 2006.”
Domain Name System
The DNS is the address book of the internet, matching numeric IP addresses
to alphabetic addresses such as www.amazon.co.uk, which people find easier
to remember. But instead of one central list of everyone’s internet address,
which would be massive, it splits addresses into their constituent parts –
called domains – and gives each machine in the network enough information to
know where to locate the next machine down the line. This is known as a
distributed database.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is a not-for- profit
organisation that manages the DNS. It decides who gets to operate the most
basic domains, the top-level domains such as .com and .org as well as all
the world’s country codes. It is responsible for allocating space on the
internet. It was set up in California under contract to the department of
commerce and as such it is subject to California state law and any
disagreements have to be taken up with that state’s courts.
TCP and IP
Internet Protocol (IP) is the technology that allows data to cross networks,
using a destination address (IP address) to make sure it reaches the right
place. Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), meanwhile, ensures the correct
delivery of that data or its re- transmission if it gets lost. Together they
are the tarmac of the information superhighway.
Root zone file
Although the DNS is a distributed database it needs a starting point, a list
of where to go for the first part of an internet address and start a search
for a particular machine. This list of where to start is called the root
zone file. It is a list of 248 country code top- level domains (ccTLDs) –
such as .uk and .fr – as well as 14 generic top-level domains (gTLDs), which
are subject-based such as .com and .net and .org. The list, held on 13
machines across the world, says who runs these domains and where to find