Michael Gurstein on Sun, 4 Oct 1998 04:03:12 +0200 (MET DST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> The US DNS Proposal and the Canadian Govt's (DNS) Principles

I've now had a chance to look at the Canadian Government's DNS paper.

I've also taken a look at the US Government's proposal concerning the
global DNS governance issue.

Neither document really addresses the concerns that I raised in the
attached note (originally sent as a response to the Canadian
Government's request for public response to its draft DNS
Governance Paper)...concerning non-commercial uses and the longer term
matters of Internet and related governance.  However, the US Dept. of
Commerce proposal is (rather to my surprise) probably more supportive of a
process out of which a desireable Internet governance scheme might emerge,
than is the Canadian document.

The Canadian document seems almost completely pre-occupied with ensuring a
role for Canadian business in the emerging areas of e-commerce (and even
with ensuring a Canadian presence in the rather miniscule commercial areas
represented by DNS management).  The US document is concerned with trying
to work out how to get the Governance issues right...

I'm not sure I agree with how the US document is approaching this (I don't
have an immediately preferable alternative, I'm afraid), but at least it
is asking one of the right questions.  That being said, my feeling again,
is that the Canadian position is much much too narrow.  It does not
address issues concerning I-Governance and universal access either in
Canada or globally, it does not address the issues of non-commercial use
of the net and it doesn't address the issues of the "politics" of the
governance structures (this being the issue which will need to be
addressed in responding to the US proposal).

The group proposed by the US as the interim board of the new governing
structure is also not reflective of a concern with universal access issues
(there is no representation from developing countries), and is wildly
skewed to those with a commercial orientation to the Internet (6 of 9
representatives are from ICT related firms, one is a former EU bureaucrat
and the other two are academics).

Mike Gurstein


I haven't really followed the Internet Domain Name System (DNS)
discussions as presented by the Canadian Government or by those debating
the issues (mostly from a US perspective) in the various discussion forums
on the Internet although I've now read the various White and Green Papers.

I have very little to add to "that" discussion in that much of it is
presented within a technical or commercial framework of which I have
little knowledge.

However, the discussion around the DNS is also often presented as a
discussion of "Internet Governance" since the framework of funding,
contracts and technical and policy committees/working groups is what
currently passes for the governing framework of the global Internet.  The
process of changing and re-forging a means for managing the global Domain
Name System in fact would appear to be a surrogate for the process of
creating a global system of Internet governance.  On this latter issue I
do have some observations.

I have a strong measure of concern that the decisions about what will be
the on-going structure of the Internet, is being presented as in the first
instance a technical issue (DNS) and in the second a "commercial" issue,
i.e. how to ensure "competition" in the DNS allocation process.

If we phrase the question in the broader terms of what an appropriate
framework for global governance of the Internet should be, then we are
probably discussing the "real" question.  Also this is a question on which
many, not just the technical few who understand the "arcania" of such
things as DNS, may have an informed opinion.

The issues of how the Internet governance strategy being proposed by the
US will impact on an objective of "universal access" in Canada or in other
less economically fortunate countries are nowhere discussed in the draft
Canadian position paper.  Also there is no discussion on how a
"privatized" Internet governance will accommodate the need for public
service uses of the Net or even whether a "privatized" model is
appropriate for what is likely to be a highly significant component of
"civic" as well as "commercial" life in the future.  There is a theme
running through the document which seems to suggest that the only interest
which Canadians might have in the future of global Internet governance is
somehow linked into commercial needs and electronic commerce.  However, of
course, there are a variety of other uses including education, health
services, economic development in lagging regions, public information and
not least the opportunity for enhancing public participation in civil
society to which the Internet can and very likely will be put.

Rather than sliding by inadvertence (or by misdirection) into a global
system of Internet governance which may or may not be appropriate to the
broader and longer term aspirations of  Canadians (or others) for the
Internet, it is probably more appropriate to open up the issue of Internet
governance to a more broadly based and encompassing discussion.  The
current questioning to which the global financial system as promoted by
the IMF is being subject, and the likely reforms to that system
reflecting the current economic crises, should give pause to those who
want to "cast in stone" current partial approaches to governance
(privatization, commercialization) which may or may not be appropriate in
the longer term.

I think that it is not completely unrealistic to be thinking about the
establishment of a global Internet governance system in the context of the
establishment of the global governance system of the future.  As
increasing volumes of commerce and information intensive activities
(administration, education, health) are "virtualized" and distributed on
and through the "net", the significance of localized boundaries will alter
substantially if not diminish significantly.  How the "landscape" of the
emerging virtual world is carved up, and more importantly how it is
managed and administered may have crucial long term significance for how
resources are managed and distributed, how participation in decision
making is achieved (or blocked), and how power is exerted in the real
world as opposed to the virtual one.

Decisions made now about what may appear to be relatively obscure
technical matters may have truly profound implications as those decisions
become embedded in practices and procedures (and not to say software and
hardware designs) the cost to alter and significance of which we can
currently barely discern.  The implicit reference here to the y2k seismic
fault line, which governments and individuals are at this moment trying to
find some way of coping with, should not go unnoticed.

My own suggestion would be that decisions around issues of Internet
governance be not entered into hastily or without due deliberation and
widespread and informed consultation.  The issues are not simply technical
or commercial and should not be allowed to enter into a "default" mode
because of their being placed in too narrow a frame of reference.

The issues of Internet governance require a broad base of consultation
including full and informed participation from those with interests which
are non-technical and non-commercial.  In addition they should be seen
within the broadest possible global context including effective
participation from the entire global community.

Mike Gurstein

Michael Gurstein, Ph.D.
ECBC/NSERC/SSHRC Associate Chair in the Management of Technological Change
Director:  Centre for Community and Enterprise Networking (C\CEN)
University College of Cape Breton, POBox 5300, Sydney, NS, CANADA B1P 6L2
Tel.  902-563-1369 (o)          902-562-1055 (h)        902-562-0119 (fax)
Mgurst@ccen.uccb.ns.ca      Http://ccen.uccb.ns.ca         ICQ: 7388855
#  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo@desk.nl and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  URL: http://www.desk.nl/~nettime/  contact: nettime-owner@desk.nl