IANA Transition is on track for protocol parameters

In March of this year U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Larry Strickling announced the administration’s desire to withdraw from its oversight role over Internet naming, numbering, and protocol parameters.  In that announcement he called for the community to come up with a proposal that I can submit through ICANN.  Since that time, the community organized the IANA Coordination Group, develop a timeline, rolled up our sleeves, and got to work.

Now the first part of the proposal is nearly ready. The Internet Engineering Task Force who are responsible for policies relating protocol parameters has issued a last call on the draft that will be submitted to the ICG.  Both the  naming and  number and communities are not far behind.

It was disappointing yesterday to see Gordon Crovitz complaining about a lack of progress in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, attempting to get the blame on President Obama.   Crovitz acknowledged that nothing was broken. I agree.  In fact in the process of developing the IETF part of the proposal, not a single person complained about the operational performance of the IANA staff. When a government role isn’t needed, it shouldn’t be performed, since it just costs U.S. taxpayer money.  Oddly in this instance, Mr. Crovitz likes big government.

Mr. Crovitz also asserted that the NTIA direction would put the IANA functions into the hands of other governments.  In point of fact all the proposals are being developed by the private sector, and the Internet technical community. While other governments may not trust United States to manage domain names, they do trust the private sector to do so.  Sec. Strickling’s deft move provided strong support for United States positions at the recent ITU plenipotentiary conference in Busan, South Korea, that kept excessive government control of the Internet at bay.

Since we’re not in a hurry to fix something we might as well get the job done right so that the transition can succeed.  The issues around Internet governance are complex and require serious consideration.  While all institutions such as ICANN hold a public trust, abuse should only be heaped on them when it’s deserved.  Today it was not.    Instead what we saw it was a vindictive commentator attempting to score cheap political points against the administration at the expense of hard-working people and the long term interests of the Internet as a whole.

But don’t let the facts get in the way of good column.

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Failure in Dubai: WCIT falls apart

After over a year’s worth of preparation on the part of nearly every country on earth, today the WCIT conference fell apart, with the U.S., Canada, UK, and other countries refusing to sign the new International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs).  They all had good reason to not sign.

Never fear!  The Internet is still here and open for business.  Treaties have failed before and yet the world goes on.

This treaty-

  • put into play regulation of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and would have required governments to impose international obligations on them.
  • attempted to add claims about human rights,
  • challenged the role of the U.N. security council, and whether U.N. sanctions could apply to telecommunications.
  • went headlong into cybersecurity and spam, without any real basis or understanding for what it would mean to do so.
  • worst of all ran headlong into Internet governance, challenging the flexible approach that has grown the network from nothing to 2.5 billion people.

This was never going to be an easy conference.  It has been clear for many years that the developing world has very different views from the developed world, and the views of Russia, China, and Iran are quite different from those of the U.S., Canada, and Europe.  In the end, the gulf between these worlds was too great.

I extend my sincere thanks to those who spent many tireless hours in Dubai in defense of the Internet.  A partial list includes Markus Kummer, Sally Wentworth, Karen Mulberry, and Leslie Daigle of the Internet Society; Chip Sharp, KY Hong, Hosein Badran, and Robert Pepper of Cisco Systems; Adam Gosling of APNIC; Patrik Fältström of NetNod; Phil Rushton of BT; Mike Blanche, Sarah Falvey,and Aparna Sridhar of Google; Tom Walsh of Juniper; Anders Jonsson of the Swedish Administration; Dr. Richard Beaird, James Ennis, Vernita Harris, Ashley Heineman, Joanne Wilson, Franz Zichy, and many others from the American Administration; and Dr. Bruce Gracie, Avellaneda, and Martin Proulx from the Canadian administration.

These people spent many weeks away from their families, both in Dubai and in preparation.  This was not the result they were hoping for.

A special thanks to Vint Cerf, who travels the earth to keep the Internet bringing communications to all.

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What’s WCIT about? It depends on who you ask.

This week the World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT) began with a remarkable and important declaration from the Secretary General, Dr. Hamadoun Touré:

And WCIT is not about Internet governance.  WCIT is about making sure that we connect the billion people without access to mobile telephony, and that we connect the 4.5 billion people who are still off line.

Let’s first take a moment to celebrate the fact that 2.5 billion people have access to the Internet, and that the rate of Internet penetration has grown at a rate of 14% over the last few years to 35%, according to the ITU’s own numbers.  That’s great news, and it leads to a question: how shall WCIT focus on improving on that number?   How have the International Telecommunication Regulations that have served 2.5 billion people not served the other 4.5 billion?

Unfortunately, none of the proposals that have been made available actually focus on this very problem.  Instead, at least one prominent proposal from Russia focuses on… Internet governance.  Let’s wish the Secretary General great success in persuading Russia and other governments that indeed that is not what this conference is about.

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