Internet Governance, Part Two


Last week, I laid out some of the higher level issues around Internet governance and some of the discussions that are currently going on in Mexico at a meeting of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). In this blog post, my intent is to explain two different approaches to Internet governance, and give my reasons why I believe the multi-stakeholder approach is best.

The question at hand: Do we stick with the current multi-stakeholder approach, or, as many would argue, do we move to a UN-style multi-lateral approach?

First off, however, I think I need to clarify one of the basic issues. The term Internet governance, in my mind, encompasses both the policy and technical issues inherent in the Internet. The two cannot be separated – they are inextricably linked.

Many nations, including Russia and Syria, would like to see the authority over the Internet moved to a UN-style organization, like the ITU, with a multi-lateral governance structure.

A multi-lateral approach to governance really has been the model of choice for international entities for many years (in fact, this approach started with the ITU when it was formed in 1865). A multi-lateral approach has been the backbone of international cooperation: the UN, the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, and the World Trade Organization all operate within a multi-lateral model. Simply put, in theory the multi-lateral approach gives a voice to nation states in a forum to discuss issues of international importance.

This approach works for many organizations, there’s no doubt. And, the UN is a great organization that has accomplished many things. It is also frustratingly bureaucratic and slow.

ICANN, the organization that’s currently ‘in charge’ of the Internet is governed by a multi-stakeholder structure that includes governments, operators, the technical community, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and others.

Simply put, it is a mix of both public and private entities at the regional, national and international levels. It involves ensuring that the parties that have a stake in the successful operation of the Internet have a say in how the Internet is run. And, there are many more parties involved in looking after the Internet than just ICANN: the NRO, ARIN, the IETF, and many other organizations play a role in making sure the Internet is secure, and operates without downtime.

Relatively speaking, the Internet is still new. It also represents an entirely new entity, like nothing the world has ever seen. It transcends nation states, and really turns our commonly held notions of governance models upside down. Not to sound too pie in the sky, but the Internet really does give a voice to the voiceless.

The current system isn’t perfect. There’s no doubt that some nations have more say than others. It’s true that many countries in the developing world are not as connected to the Internet as in the developed world. Yes, these countries should have a say in the direction the Internet is taking. There’s no question that the Internet is an essential resource for economic and social development in the 21st century. I do not, however, believe that the current parties behind the activity at the ITU have the best interest of the developing world at heart.

I’ll be perfectly frank. Much of the rhetoric we’re hearing out of the Plenipotentiary Conference (PP10) is based on extremist ideologies. I find it hard to believe that a country where only 8,000 computers are connected to the Internet, such as Syria, is truly championing the Internet as a tool for development. Can we trust a country that blocks access to many websites, including Facebook, Hotmail, YouTube, all .Blogspot sites and many, many others in the driver’s seat for what is essentially one of the most powerful communications tools in the history of modern civilization?

If the ITU were serious about expanding the global reach of the Internet and ensuring the voices of the developing world are heard, it would do better by focusing energies on expanding broadband access.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that these ITU meetings are closed, and are informed by documents that are secretive. As of yet, I have not been able to access any of the resolutions that have been passed at PP10, including Resolution 101. This resolution, from what I can gather from Twitter, involves Internet governance, and the multi-stakeholder approach. As an active participant with ICANN, and as vice-chair of the Country Code Names Supporting Organisation (ccNSO) of ICANN, I find this particularly infuriating.  There are discussions taking place at PP10 about restructuring ICANN, yet a request by ICANN’s President and CEO Rod Beckstrom  to attend the PP10 was declined.

Interesting note: I understand from Kieren McCarthy, who is attending the PP10, that discussions about Internet governance and the role of ITU have ceased due to “bad-tempered and, at times, surreal discussions that stretched through the weekend.” The ITU may have reached an impasse on those resolutions that would have seen it make steps toward taking control of the Internet.

Isn’t it ironic that the ITU has failed to take control of the Internet for the very same reason that many of us thought them controlling the Internet was problematic? For once (and I hope for the last time), bureaucratic delays and the deeply entrenched position of a minority of opinions win!

The Internet gives voice to the voiceless, and has the power to advance the spread of democracy and progress. Are we willing to give that power to countries who exercise extreme censorship of all things, the Internet included, within their borders?

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  • Kieren McCarthy

    Hi Byron,

    Well I have spent a week inside the ITU, with an open heart and an open mind.

    In the context of your blog post, my broad conclusion is that the ITU cannot be allowed anywhere near Internet governance for the immediate future.

    That said, it does have some very useful facets and ICANN needs to stop being so reactive. The only solution is an MoU between ICANN and the ITU at some point in the next five years that helps each organisation defines their own roles in relation to one another.


  • Jim Fleming

    Isn’t Artificial Scarcity in the IANA (ICANN) Root Zone a form of CENSORSHIP ?

    Isn’t Artificial Scarcity and Communist Address Space Leasing a form of CENSORSHIP ?

    What does the CEO of the .CA Registry bank each year ?

    Are you aware of what the CEOs of ICANN, ARIN and ISOC bank ?

    Why are others NOT allowed into your cozy clique ?

  • Byron

    Hi Kieren,
    Thanks for the comments, great to have feedback from an educated voice with a participant’s perspective.

    I completely agree with you, the “bun fight” has to stop, for the benefit of both organizations and the communities they serve. Clearly both have a role in some way, be it pipes, plumbing, protocols, or policy. The faster we can get agreement from them that there is a constructive role for both orgs in this space, the better off the Internet ecosystem will be. How are we going to get there from here?


  • Jim Fleming

    “How are we going to get there from here?”

    The REAL Internet views Censorship as damage and routes around it.

    The toy academic IPv4 Internet is slowly being replaced, at least in the .USA with a Free Market telecom “eco.system”.

    Why will the .USA continue to allow people to walk across the borders (electronically) when they can not enter physically ?

    “How are we going to get there from here?”
    Stay tuned for some shock and awe…

  • Byron

    Geez Jim,

    You got me there, I had always thought of the DNS as a protocol, not a form of censorship??

    Maybe you are right, we should just stick with the telcos, they are well know for their innovation and creativity…and oh yeah, “free market” behaviour. Well known for their free market behaviour.

    As far as joining the “cozy clique”, fire your resume in next time one of these jobs comes available. Mine was an open competition, so next time, fire away.

    Hold on while I get popcorn, I want to be ready for the “shock and awe” show.


  • Jim Fleming

    “Hold on while I get popcorn…”

    .CA better get an IDN – Canada is “International” relative to the .USA

    .CA is being re-Launched in .CAlifornia (Northern)

    .LA is Southern California

    “Hold on while I get popcorn…”

    Many vISPs will not include IDNs as Basic Service
    IDNs will be an “upsell”.

    What is the ASCII for the .CA IDN .xyzzy–CA ?

    “Hold on while I get popcorn…”

    March 2010 – SanFrancisco.CA << ASCII – A is for American

    "Hold on while I get popcorn…"

  • Jim Fleming

    “Hold on while I get popcorn…”

    Correction: .CAnada needs an “IDN ccTLD”

    a Fast Track Process awaits you…

    Domains: Public Comment: Review of IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process

    Good luck in the “Fast Track”

    “Hold on while I get popcorn…”

  • Jim Fleming

    IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process

    Meaningfulness: The strings requested through the Fast Track Process must be demonstrated to be meaningful representations of the corresponding country or territory name. If the strings requested do not automatically fulfill this requirement through a published authoritative list, the requester must include documentation from a linguistic expert that the strings are in fact meaningful representations of the country or territory name. Some requesters have stated that this requirement is not necessary in cases where the strings requested are agreed to by the government and otherwise seem obviously meaningful.

    The issue has been raised that in some cases, the strings requested do not fulfill the meaningfulness automatically. Staff is looking especially for feedback as to whether additional elements could result in automatically fulfilling this requirement, and if so, which.

    Determination of the IDN ccTLD Manager: This is a topic related to the community support topic discussed above and is primarily raised here for clarification purposes.

    In many cases the IDN ccTLD manager is the manager that submits the original IDN ccTLD request. However, this is not a requirement. But it results in confusion in some cases because the IDN ccTLD manager is not “evaluated” in the String Evaluation, but only subsequently in the String Delegation.

    Clarifications in the long term will be beneficial on this subject (we are also trying to make this more clearly in the information provided participants in the Fast Track Process).

  • RIchard Sexton

    “my broad conclusion is that the ITU cannot be allowed anywhere near Internet governance for the immediate future.”

    Too late. In 1996 Bob Shaw (ITU), Albert Tramposch (WIPO) and Don Heath (ISOC) met at an OECD meeting in Ottawa. From this meeting IAHC was born which was the forerunner of ICANN.

    In 1998 at an IFWP meeting, ostensibly tasked by the government to help find a replacement for IANA, a very drunk Bob Shaw informed me we were wasting our time as decisions had already been made and we should really all just go home. The IFWP process was blindsides and ICANN emerged, with Bob Shaw from the ITU as a key player.

    In Berlin at the names council inaugural meetings Bob Shaw introduced the GAC and explained their necessity. At the time there was a pretense that ICANN “implemented community consensus” rather than synthesized policy. I held a consensus call on the floor of the 1000-person meeting, over the objections of Shaw who turned red. 13 people were in favour of the GAC, and all of these were government representatives. Of course the GAC was not only instantly recognized, but given greater authority than the other “stakeholders”. Under Bob Shaw’s leadership, the GAC always met in secret, despite ICANN’s assertions of “openness” and “transparency”.

    And let’s not forget the 1996 GTE Federal Networking Systems incidnt when Bob Shaw called them and threw around the ITU’s weiht in order to quelch any interest in opposition to the burgoning ICANN movement, then swore them to secret. At the time Shaw was a LAN administrator there, but acted as though he were an important official of the ITU in Geneva. You’ve seen The Wizard of Oz, right?

    The ITU moves in the shadows and doesn’t leave fingerprints. If you think you know what’s going on from public meetings you may be surprised when you find out what really happens months or even years later. Of course you’ll be unlikely to find out how it happened, you’ll just be left with the unsavory results.

    Like ICANN. An organization formed in the late 90s, in secret taksed by the government to find a solution to the trademark/domain problem (which it did in months with WIPO and the ITU’s help) and to create new top level domains. Which are two years away from whenever you ask. I coined this phrase in 1998 and it is as true today as it was then.

    We used to measure the delays in new tlds (not that I have no personal interest in these and haven’t since 2000) in generations of kittens, but we’re at a point now where some of the key players were per-pubescent and playing with My Little Pony at the time when a solution to this problem was deemed imminent. At this juncture we can now measure the delay in generations of humans.

    Keep in mind the ITU was formed as a meeting place for the 7 families that own the European telcos to have a forum to agree on technical standards to preserve their monopoly and that America fought for years to liberate its own phone numbers from the ITU.

    In a world where te head of ICANN makes twice what the President of the United States earns and rules over an organization “for the public benefit” yes who make 5X what they would if they were to be government employees (see the Form 990 declarations) do not expect anything other than a furtherance of a corporate agenda which has been the modus operandi of the organization since its inception. To a great extent that power was delivered to it via the ITU, and anybody that had the power to give you everything also has the power to take it all away.

    The entire “Internet governance” debacle should be standard textbook reading for anybody interested in institutional corruption. Follow the money. Look at salaries. Look at how the organizations that hand out those salaries got to the position of being able to afford those salaries.

    That little ecosystem perpetrated by a small number of entrenched insiders would make Huey Long blush, and don’t pretend to have the faintest understanding of what they’re up to at the moment.

  • Jim Fleming

    “As far as joining the “cozy clique”, fire your resume in next time one of these jobs comes available. Mine was an open competition, so next time, fire away.”

    What did your .CA Registry Franchise cost you ?

    Are there Franchise Disclosure Documents ?

    Are your financial records open to the public ?…or, is this a Private Registry ?

  • Richard Sexton

    In 1991 Carl Malamud and Tony Rutkowski began an “experiment” known as “Project Bruno” to put ITU specs online. The problem was, if you wanted to look at the spec for, say, T1 or E1 you had spend a small fortune to buy the spec from the ITU and this was hindering smaller countries from becoming connected. Rutkowski as general counsel to the ITU noted that they were free of copyright and in theory could me made available freely. So with the ITU’s blessing they put them online. Within 90 days of doing this the ITU demanded they take them offline. Quoting Malamud:

    “The letter congratulated me for the wonderful work I had done and terminated the Bruno experiment as of December 31, 1991, a mere 90 days after it went operational.

    The letter disingenously said that although the experiment was terminated, “measures are in progress for a similar service to be made available under ITU auspices.”

    I had talked in Geneva to Robert Shaw, the technical staff member working on an Electronic Document Handling System. His vision, still very much in the conceptual stage, was to put a PC with X.400 software on the ITU network and offer only working documents to a tightly controlled group of people.
    The letter from Tarjanne also insisted that I somehow convey to “all those who are operating info-servers with copies of the ITU standards that it’s authorization for distribution of this material ceases after December 1991.”

    The ITU has indeed made this material available online, or at least announced its intention to – in a paper document leaked to the net by Milton Mueller:

    It only took the ITU twenty years to do what Malamud and Rutkowski did in an afternoon. Keep that in mind whenever you see the words “ITU” and “Internet” in the same sentence.

    You can read Malamud’s book online free at: – pay special attention to “Boulder”, and “Geneva” in the first (of three) parts.

    To get a real feel for how helpful the ITU has been you needed to be at the 1998 Domain Summit in Washington D.C. when Richard (Baird?) from the U.S. state department gave a dire warning about ITU involvement with the Internet having just finished negotiations to repatriate US phone numbers from the ITU – a task that took several years and cost who knows how much.

  • Jim Fleming

    Note the .USA is the only true Free Market Telecom Eco.System.

    Unfortunately, that does not extend to Canada and/or Mexico.

    As the Canadian Minister of Communication once explained to me, Canada could not support the same competition-based market dynamics of the .USA because “the two smart people in Canada would destroy each other”…and then where would Canada be?

    The Canadian Minister of Communication then went on to explain that the .USA has thousands of “smart people” ready to compete (and destroy each other) and thousands more wanting to migrate to the .USA to participate.

    The ITU was set up as an attempt to pull “smart people” from many of the obscure markets around the world. Instead of competition, they focus on collusion. Some people are attracted to that type of Eco.System.

    It is ironic that the CORE of the I* Eco.System has the ITU Flavor.

    The .USA is too busy to be concerned with the ITU or the I*.

    IPv6 Top Topic at U.S. FCC Technological Advisory Council Meeting
    Technological Advisory Council Meeting
    Novermber 4, 2010 | Washington, DC
    1:00 PM – 4:00 PM ET


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