Al Gore did not invent the Internet. Let us make that clear first. Secondly, the U.S. government doesn’t and never has run the Internet.
One of my readers is Big Brother’s BF from high school and a high I.Q. commuter systems analyst. “Prof.” B, if you please. Reading my previous post about Obama giving away our Internet freedom, he e-mailed me immediately.
“I don’t even know where to start with this,” he wrote, “but being kind, it’s uninformed.”
It was also the story from the Washington Post; I neglected to use quotes or attribute my source, which was very bad of me. That’s what happens when you’re in the midst of applying for an actual, living-income job, taking photos for the local newspaper, as well as covering municipal and school board meetings, playing with two bands, and trying to keep up with your blog. Mea culpa.
So now that we know the Washington Post is uninformed, this is what Prof. B has to say about the Internet situation:
“First,” he continued, “the U.S. government doesn’t and never has run the Internet. It started out as the ARPANET, but was moved to ICAAN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and an Internet consortium, becoming the Internet we know today. At the moment, the U.S. has the root nameservers in government facilities (at least the .com and .net root servers). But it is administered by ICAAN, not the government.
“What the U.S. government IS doing is empowering the ICAAN in an effort to prevent an ITU (the International Telecommunications Union, based in Switzerland) takeover of the Internet, something that WOULD put the Internet under the control of foreign governments’ vice the public/private sector is in (with some government participation).
Prof B. has been working with people he knows on various Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) committees to ensure the ITU, which comes under the auspices of the United Nations, “never gets near the Internet (or we’ll either not have one, or have a very fractured one). An ITU takeover would be disastrous. What the U.S. government is doing may just obviate their bid (something the ITU has been driving on very hard for the past 18-plus months). Dubai was just the tip of the iceberg, but shows how weak support is for a “free” Internet (free from control by dictatorial governments).
I told him I’d gotten the information from a newspaper source.
“I don’t follow the idiot media,” he wrote back.
The battle is between the Good Guys (the IETF) and the Bad Guys (the ITU).
The professor continued, “[T]he ITU, under the auspices of the U.N., has been trying to gain control of the Internet. Try researching on the ITU. They are a scary bunch and heavily controlled by countries like Russia, Iran, etc., even though we (the U.S.) pay the lion’s share of the ITU budget.
“The ICAAN holds little sway with anyone. Transferring the top-level domains (TLDs) to the ICAAN strengthens their position (which is a multi-stakeholder position for the continued governance of the Internet).
“There really is a lot involved here with many players jockeying for position (mostly governments inimical to the U.S.) to gain control and regulate the Internet. The U.S. is attempting to counter this. The ICAAN and IETF have been in charge and should stay in charge through their multi-stakeholder model. If this ever changes (and it would with government interference through the ITU), the Internet as we know it would change for the worst.”
So, I did my homework, as he requested. I went to the IETF’s site first:
“The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is a large open international community of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers concerned with the evolution of the Internet architecture and the smooth operation of the Internet. It is open to any interested individual. The IETF Mission Statement is documented in RFC 3935.
“The actual technical work of the IETF is done in its working groups, which are organized by topic into several areas (e.g., routing, transport, security, etc.). Much of the work is handled via mailing lists. The IETF holds meetings three times per year.
“The IETF working groups are grouped into areas, and managed by Area Directors, or ADs. The ADs are members of the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG). Providing architectural oversight is the Internet Architecture Board, (IAB). The IAB also adjudicates appeals when someone complains that the IESG has failed. The IAB and IESG are chartered by the Internet Society (ISOC) for these purposes. The General Area Director also serves as the chair of the IESG and of the IETF, and is an ex-officio member of the IAB.
“The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is the central coordinator for the assignment of unique parameter values for Internet protocols. The IANA is chartered by the Internet Society (ISOC) to act as the clearinghouse to assign and coordinate the use of numerous Internet protocol parameters.
“The mission of the IETF is to make the Internet work better by producing high quality, relevant technical documents that influence the way people design, use, and manage the Internet.
“The IETF will pursue this mission in adherence to the following cardinal principles:
“Open process – any interested person can participate in the work, know what is being decided, and make his or her voice heard on the issue. Part of this principle is our commitment to making our documents, our WG mailing lists, our attendance lists, and our meeting minutes publicly available on the Internet.
“Technical competence – the issues on which the IETF produces its documents are issues where the IETF has the competence needed to speak to them, and that the IETF is willing to listen to technically competent input from any source. Technical competence also means that we expect IETF output to be designed to sound network engineering principles – this is also often referred to as ‘engineering quality.’
“Volunteer Core – our participants and our leadership are people who come to the IETF because they want to do work that furthers the IETF’s mission of ‘making the Internet work better.’”
“Rough consensus and running code – We make standards based on the combined engineering judgment of our participants and our real-world experience in implementing and deploying our specifications.
“Protocol ownership – when the IETF takes ownership of a protocol or function, it accepts the responsibility for all aspects of the protocol, even though some aspects may rarely or never be seen on the Internet. Conversely, when the IETF is not responsible for a protocol or function, it does not attempt to exert control over it, even though it may at times touch or affect the Internet.
As for the ITU, according to Wikipedia:
“The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), originally the International Telegraph Union is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies. The ITU coordinates the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promotes international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, works to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world, and assists in the development and coordination of worldwide technical standards.
“ITU also organizes worldwide and regional exhibitions and forums, such as ITU TELECOM WORLD, bringing together representatives of government and the telecommunications and ICT industry to exchange ideas, knowledge and technology.
“The ITU is active in areas including broadband Internet, latest-generation wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology, convergence in fixed-mobile phone, Internet access, data, voice, TV broadcasting, and next-generation networks.
“ITU, based in Geneva, Switzerland, is a member of the United Nations Development Group. Its membership includes 193 Member States and around 700 Sector Members and Associates.
“The ITU comprises three sectors, each managing a different aspect of the matters handled by the Union, as well as ITU Telecom:
Managing the international radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbit resources is at the heart of the work of the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R).
ITU’s standards-making efforts are its best-known – and oldest – activity; known prior to 1992 as the International Telephone and Telegraph Consultative Committee or CCITT (from its French name “Comité consultatif international téléphonique et télégraphique”)
Established to help spread equitable, sustainable and affordable access to information and communication technologies (ICT).
ITU Telecom organizes major events for the world’s ICT community. ITU Telecom World 2011 is ITU Telecom’s 40th Anniversary with the first event in 1971.
“A permanent General Secretariat, headed by the Secretary General, manages the day-to-day work of the Union and its sectors.
“The current regulatory structure was based on voice telecommunications, when the Internet was still in its infancy. In 1988, telecommunications operated under regulated monopolies in most countries. As the Internet has grown, organizations such as ICANN have come into existence to manage key resources such as Internet addresses and domain names. Some outside the United States believe that the United States exerts too much influence over the governance of the Internet.”
That was a quote from the Russia Today website, in the Russian and India Report, on May 29, 2012, in an article, entitled, “Russia calls for Internet revolution:”
“Russia, backed by China and India, is pushing through a takeover of the internet by a U.N. supranational agency to make the web truly universal. The aim of the plan is to standardize the behavior of countries concerning information and cyberspace. Leading emerging economies supported by other United Nations members initiated the discussion around handing over internet regulation to a UN agency. At present it is controlled by private shareholders.
“BRICS countries China, Brazil, India and Russia share the belief that the Geneva-based U.N. agency, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), would do a better job if put in charge of international cyber security, data privacy, technical standards and the global web address system.
“The head of the US Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration Larry Strickling has been categorical, saying in the regulations supposed by the initiative “it is really the governments that are at the table, but the rest of the stakeholders aren’t.”
“On April 19, US Congress adopted Resolution 628 ‘expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States should preserve, enhance, and increase access… to an open, global internet.’
“’It is the sense of the House of Representatives that if a resolution calling for endorsement of the proposed international code of conduct for information security or a resolution inconsistent with the principles above comes up for a vote in the United Nations General Assembly or other international organization, the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations or the United States representative to such other international organization should oppose such a resolution,’ the bill announces.
“But the International Telecommunication Union is far from giving up. The United Nations agency prepares to hold a vast World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) in December  in Dubai where ITU member states will discuss the proposed revisions to the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR) that might expand the ITU’s mandate to encompass the internet.
“The ITR is a legally binding international treaty signed by 178 countries.
“Last June, then-PM Vladimir Putin met ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré. The two discussed global access to the benefits of information and communication technologies (ICT). Vladimir Putin announced his support for an internet takeover by the United Nations and backed the International Telecommunication Union.
“Recalling that the ITU is one of the oldest international organizations (an extension of the International Telegraph Union established in 1865), Putin said that ‘Russia was one of its co-founders and intends to be an active member.’”
So said Russia Today back in 2012.
Back to Wikipedia.
“Current proposals look to take into account the prevalence of data communications. Proposals under consideration would establish regulatory oversight by the U.N. over security, fraud, traffic accounting as well as traffic flow, management of Internet Domain Names and IP addresses, and other aspects of the Internet that are currently governed either by community-based approaches such as Regional Internet Registries, ICANN, or largely national regulatory frameworks. The move by the ITU and some countries has alarmed many within the United States and within the Internet community. Indeed some European telecommunication services have proposed a so-called “sender pays” model that would require sources of Internet traffic to pay destinations, similar to the way funds are transferred between countries using the telephone.
“The WCIT-12 activity has been attacked by Google, which has characterized it as a threat to the ‘…free and open internet’.”
“The European Parliament passed a resolution on Nov. 22, 2012, urging member states to prevent ITU WCIT-12 activity that would ‘negatively impact the internet, its architecture, operations, content and security, business relations, internet governance and the free flow of information online.’ The resolution asserted that ‘the ITU […] is not the appropriate body to assert regulatory authority over the internet.’
“On Dec. 5, 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution opposing U.N. governance of the Internet by a rare unanimous 397–0 vote. The resolution warned that ‘… proposals have been put forward for consideration at the [WCIT-12] that would fundamentally alter the governance and operation of the Internet … [and] would attempt to justify increased government control over the Internet …’, and stated that the policy of the United States is ‘… to promote a global Internet free from government control and preserve and advance the successful Multistakeholder Model that governs the Internet today.’ The same resolution had previously been passed unanimously by the upper chamber of the Congress in September.
“An amended version of the Regulations was signed by 89 of the 152 countries on Dec. 14, 2012. Countries that did not sign included the United States, Japan, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, India, and the United Kingdom. The Head of the U.S. Delegation, Terry Kramer, said, ‘We cannot support a treaty that is not supportive of the multistakeholder model of Internet governance.’ The disagreement appeared to be over some language in the revised ITRs referring to ITU roles in addressing unsolicited bulk communications, network security, and a resolution on Internet governance that called for government participation in Internet topics at various ITU forums. Despite the significant number of countries not signing, the ITU organization came out with a press release: “New global telecoms treaty agreed in Dubai“.
“The conference itself was managed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). While certain parts of civil society and industry were able to advise and observe, active participation was restricted to member states. The Electronic Frontier Foundation expressed concern at this, calling for a more transparent multi-stakeholder process. Some leaked contributions can be found on the wcitleaks.org web site. Google-affiliated researchers have suggested that the ITU should completely reform its processes to align itself with the openness and participation of other multistakeholder organizations concerned with the Internet.
According to Prof. B., “Of the 178 participants at Dubai where the ITU made their bid at an Internet takeover, only (if I remember correctly) 37 delegates walked out — the US, EU countries, and a few of the more ‘free’ countries.”
“The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is an international non-profit digital rights group based in the United States.
“EFF provides funds for legal defense in court, presents amici curiae briefs, defends individuals and new technologies from what it considers baseless or misdirected legal threats, works to expose government malfeasance, provides guidance to the government and courts, organizes political action and mass mailings, supports some new technologies which it believes preserve personal freedoms, maintains a database and web sites of related news and information, monitors and challenges potential legislation that it believes would infringe on personal liberties and fair use, and solicits a list of what it considers patent abuses with intentions to defeat those that it considers without merit.”
As for ICANN, (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), it’s a “nonprofit, private organization headquartered in Los Angeles. It was in September 1998 to oversee a number of Internet-related -related tasks previously performed] by other organizations, notably the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which ICANN now operates.
“ICANN is responsible for the coordination of the global Internet’s systems of unique identifiers and, in particular, ensuring its stable and secure operation. This work includes coordination of the Internet Protocol (IP) address spaces (IPv4 and IPv6) and assignment of address blocks to regional Internet registries, for maintaining registries of Internet protocol identifiers, and for the management of the top-level domain names space (DNS root zone), which includes the operation of root name servers. Most visibly, much of its work has concerned the DNS policy development for internationalization of the DNS system and introduction of new generic top-level domains (TLDs). ICANN performs the actual technical maintenance work of the central Internet address pools and DNS root registries pursuant to the ‘IANA function’ contract”.
“ICANN’s primary principles of operation have been described as helping preserve the operational stability of the Internet; to promote competition; to achieve broad representation of the global Internet community; and to develop policies appropriate to its mission through bottom-up, consensus-based processes.
“On Sept. 29, 2006, ICANN signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce that moved the private organization towards full management of the Internet’s system of centrally coordinated identifiers through the Multistakeholder Model of consultation that ICANN represents.
“In the Memorandum of Understanding that set up the relationship between ICANN and the U.S. government [the Department of Commerce], ICANN was given a mandate requiring that it operate ‘in a bottom up, consensus-driven, democratic manner.’ However, the attempts that ICANN made to set up an organizational structure that would allow wide input from the global Internet community did not produce results amenable to the then-current Board. As a result, the At-Large (direct public) constituency and direct election of board members by the global Internet community were abandoned in 2002.”
Prof. B wrote further, “Hope your readers can keep up with all the legal mumbo jumbo [not to mention the technical lingo]. Those that do will have a better understanding of the Internet and its workings.
“The ICAAN has no real power,” he says. “Handing them the .com and .net root nameservers (not just operation, but actual physical control, and out of US government offices) very much empowers them and allows the U.S. government to say it doesn’t control them (as many countries like Russia, China, Iran, etc., would have you believe). After all, possession is nine-tenths of the law. And the ITU can’t ‘force’ the U.S. government to turn over the servers to them; the ICAAN won’t do it.
“Make no mistake. The current ICAAN/IETF/Internet consortium is multi-stakeholder with participation from private sector, business, and interested individuals, and some limited participation from the government (they have no real say). This would change dramatically with the ITU who have NO private or public sector participation and are run solely by governments.
“The Internet consortium works. Why governments are intent on breaking it is beyond me, but what they really want is control.
“Rewind to the origins of the Internet. This was a tool for academic collaboration and free exchange of ideas. Fast forward to today and you see that it is a tool for everyone, business, academics, and anyone with a message they want to get out to a wide audience (hence all the spam).
“Looking to the future, we can either allow it to go on as it has, or turn it over to governments to dictate what content it can carry (and inevitably, what they can charge their citizenry to use it). These are wanna-be book burners, but they want to burn digital media and only allow their messages. China already has the great (fire)wall of China. We need to keep governments out or risk the freedoms we enjoy.”