R. A. Hettinga on Fri, 22 Mar 2002 19:43:28 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> We Should be Overcoming ICANN by Listening to Paul Baran

--- begin forwarded text

Status:  U
Date: Wed, 20 Mar 2002 18:26:04 -0500
To: ietf@ietf.org
From: Gordon Cook <cook@cookreport.com>
Subject: We Should be Overcoming ICANN by Listening to Paul Baran
Sender: owner-ietf@ietf.org

<x-flowed>We Should be Overcoming ICANN by Listening to Paul Baran

On June 23, 1995 Paul Baran, the inventor of packet networks gave a
talk at the MARCONI CENTENNIAL SYMPOSIUM Bologna, Italy. He end his
talk with four paragraphs that seven years later and after almost 4
years of ICANN read like prophecy.


"The Internet provides an instructive model for the future of
telecommunications regulations. The Internet allows worldwide
communications at a far lower cost than any alternative; serving data
users inexpensively, and opening access to the world's information to
a greater number of people than ever initially imagined."

"In the Internet, there is no central node, and only a minimal
centralized management structure, limited to a few housekeeping
functions such as standards setting. Local decisions essentially
control the network. The independent pieces of the network operate in
a coordinated manner with a minimum of restrictions. This lack of a
limiting centralized structure has permitted the Internet to be
responsive to a very large unregulated constituency and allowing
explosive growth and with increasing usefulness to its users.
Probably the closest parallel structure to the Internet is the free
market economy. We know that works. Will it work for regulating the
radio spectrum?"

"The Internet is an organization of users sharing a common resource,
as appropriate to the sharing of a common band of frequencies by all
comers. The Internet model for regulation would be similar to the
data network in which each user follows a simple set of commonly
observed rules. Which frequency to use and when, or which form of
modulation to use would be left to each user. The Internet model has
many of the characteristics of a desired communications regulatory
approach for the future."

"Such a direction does require a big evolution in the thinking of the
current communications regulatory agencies. The present regulatory
mentality tends to think in terms of a centralized control structure,
altogether too reminiscent of the old Soviet economy. As we know
today, that particular form of centralized system didn't work all
that well in practice and, in fact, ultimately broke down. Emphasis
with that structure was on limiting distribution, rather than on
maximizing the creation of goods and services. Some say that this old
highly centralized model of economic control remains alive and well
today -- not in Moscow but, rather, within our own radio regulatory

Baran foresaw the future.  Only three months later ISOC on October 1
1995 issued a plan by which it proposed to take control of domain

There followed the DNS wars. the IAHC, the Green paper, the White
paper, New co, IFWP and in October of 1998 ICANN. It was battle royal
over the DNS which had become the sole single point of failure for
the Internet. Among the key architects of ICANN were Vint Cerf, John
Patrick, Mike Roberts, Larry Landweber, Dave Farber and Scott Bradner.

The ICANN that was created was precisely what Baran had warned
against 39 months before. It bore a "regulatory mentality [that]
tend[ed] to think in terms of a centralized control structure.
Emphasis with that structure was on limiting distribution, rather
than on maximizing the creation of goods and services. As we know
today, that particular form of centralized system didn't work all
that well in practice and, in fact, ultimately broke down."

On March 18, 2002 David J. Farber, Peter G. Neumann, and Lauren
Weinstein issued a manifesto http://www.pfir.org/statements/icann
acknowledging the breakdown that Baran had warned against. It began

"Despite its best efforts, the Internet Corporation for Assigned
Names and Numbers (ICANN) has proven overall to be a failed
experiment in Internet policy development, implementation, and
management. ICANN's lack of meaningful representation, and its
continuing pattern of drastic and seemingly arbitrary structural and
policy changes (among other shortcomings), have created an unstable
and suspicion-ridden environment that is detrimental to the interests
of the vast majority of Internet users around the world. The
resulting overly politicized situation not only threatens the
stability of the Internet itself, but also invites drastic and
undesirable interventions by a variety of vested interests."

They concluded: "First, as an immediate temporary measure, all
Internet policy, operational, and other Internet-related functions
currently performed by ICANN should be transferred, as soon as
practicable while maintaining continuity, to a different, already
existing non-profit organization (or organizations) on a
non-permanent, strictly stewardship basis. One potential candidate we
would suggest considering for this role would be the Internet
Architecture Board (IAB), although there are a range of other
possibilities of course. The process to plan and begin a transfer of
responsibilities from ICANN should be initiated immediately."

"Next, we recommend that an intensive, international study be started
at once, with a mandate to propose detailed and meaningful paths for
the Internet's development, operations, and management."

"Our third recommended step would be for the results of this study to
be carefully considered and, as deemed appropriate, to be
implemented. Internet-related functions would be transferred from the
temporary stewardship organization(s) to the entities developed from
the study results."

Put quite simply their manifesto shows they haven't pondered Paul
Baran's prophecy of June 1995. For they are proposing yet again to
create a set of central control structures for the Internet where
none are needed. And where by their own admission the first Internet
administrator offered but a "continuing pattern of drastic and
seemingly arbitrary structural and policy changes (among other
shortcomings), [that] have created an unstable and suspicion-ridden
environment." They now ask for permission to go out and do it all
over again.

They miss however the absolutely key point. What they did then and
are getting ready to do again by proposing ICANN 2 is shaped by their
control oriented view of the world. The phrase that was on many
peoples lips including Dave Farber's in the mid 90s: the Internet may
need to have "adult supervision" imposed upon it. ICANN was
constructed to do just that. This is the paternalistic concept behind
computer networks of the ARPAnet era. An internetwork.... that is to
say a network of networks can have no central controller. TCP/IP
pushed verifiable end- to-end connectivity into the hands of the
users and made it possible to do away with central control. Vint Cerf
doesn't understand what he and Kahn did. And now Dave Farber, having
been one of the primary builders of the original ICANN, admits that
the first effort to bring the Internet under central control has
failed. Sadly, like the kid with his finger in the dike trying to
hold back the onrush of the North Sea, he proposes yet another study
group of elite industry and academic vested-interests to do over
again what he and EDUCAUSE and ISOC and IANA tried to do in 1998. The
1998 attempt failed. So will the 2002 attempt. So will the attempt of

You cannot adequately grasp what is at stake without an understanding
of the end to end architecture of the net. I can't emphasize this too
much because I am amazed at my own slowness to grasp these
fundamental issues. The 1984 Clarke Reed paper first pointed them
out. They have been built on by Larry Lessig and Yochai Benkler. In
particular, I recommend the Benkler paper below.

 From Consumers to Users

Consider Benkler's statement: "Today, as the Internet and the
digitally networked environment present us with a new set of
regulatory choices, it is important to set our eyes on the right
prize. That prize is not the Great Shopping Mall in Cyberspace. That
prize is the Great Agora-the unmediated conversation of the many with
the many."

If you place commerce as the most important priority of the Internet,
you are inviting outside regulation.  Government may regulate
commerce.  But it may not regulate speech - the Great Agora.  ICANN
has been underwritten by the GIP to make the Internet safe for global
commerce.  While one cannot and should not attempt to ban commerce
from the Internet, one can also act to ensure that the Internet is
not surrendered to those who wish to use it not for many to many
communication but to build a better shopping mall.  ICANN is there to
empower the Great Shopping Mall in Cyberspace. Any Farber, (PFIR)
inspired ICANN progeny will be there to do the same.  Deal with it
people. PFIR's Overcoming ICANN essay merely proposes that a new
group of central architects come together to construct the Really
Great Shopping Mall in Cyberspace. ICANN failed because it was built
in a darkened smoke filled room. The ICANN for the Really Great
Shopping Mall in Cyberspace will try to use open meetings involved in
the National Academy process to put window dressing over a structure
that will drafted behind the scenes by the very interests who are
horrified that something like the Internet could exist without being
under their control. If you want the Agora and what Benkler calls
users, and you do not want consumers and the shopping mall, stay far
away from the Farber, Weinstein, Neuman effort. Removing ICANN is
fine. It should indeed be done immediately. But the rest of the
prescription is unneeded. The Internet has never been a monolithic
unity. There never needed to be an authority to give permission to
communicate.  Given the many kinds networks that choose to connect to
the Internet, it has never been possible to reach from one point
every single other point on the Internet.  Nevertheless, the Internet
still works just fine thank you. The Overcoming ICANN manifesto hints
at all manner of sinister disasters waiting to happen.  And yes those
who favor the total control model, the adult supervision model and
the Really Great Shopping Mall have reason to be afraid.  Their
vision is breaking apart as it should.

The rest of us have no reason to fear.  Not, as long as we wake up,
look at what the architecture is telling us and vote with our DNS for
the inclusive roots. The "adult" supervisors fooled us once. We now
have plenty of evidence not to let them fool us again.  Should they
do so we would have proven ourselves to be the children they perceive
us to be. We must not permit them to replicate their previous errors,
but send them back instead to study the wisdom of the inventor of the
packets that started it all - Paul Baran.

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--- end forwarded text

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah@ibuc.com>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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