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<nettime> EU says internet could fall apart
lsi on Wed, 12 Oct 2005 16:42:17 +0200 (CEST)


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<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:

http://www.cyberdelix.net/adminz/434b8c5c_11425_25bbe12.html
http://www.cyberdelix.net/adminz/4344886b_15795_10a4b15d.html
http://www.cyberdelix.net/adminz/42d2571c_9717_16ece7cf.html

- Stu]

http://technology.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,16559,1589967,00.html

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 names".

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 decisions.

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 governance.

"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.

'Lightweight'

"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."

Footnotes

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.

Icann

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 them.


---
Stuart Udall
stuart at {AT} cyberdelix.dot net - http://www.cyberdelix.net/

--- 
 * Origin: lsi: revolution through evolution (192:168/0.2)



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