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Ronda Hauben: ICAAN [digest]

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1.....Debate over Internet history
2.....roblem of U.S. government and ICANN

Date: Sun, 4 Jul 1999 22:51:39 -0400 (EDT)
From: Ronda Hauben <>
Subject: Debate over Internet history

Following is a discussion from the IFWP list about ICANN and the debate
about whether there has to be a legitimate way to protect the essential
functions of the Internet like the IP number system, DNS system, root
server system, protocol process, rather than putting them under the control
of an illegitimate and secretive entity like ICANN:

"A.M. Rutkowski" <> writes:

>I would argue that no one should have "the authority to make exclusive
>assignment of Internet identifiers." Indeed, there is no such thing. You
>can today use any identifier you choose - and many institutions do.
>However, unless you have made special arrangements, your traffic might not
>end up in the right place. As a shared user network, the users vote as to
>whose identifier system is used and on what terms, not some higher
>authority - ICANN or otherwise.

The point is that unique global identifiers are needed for IP number as
part of TCP/IP.

That that is how the protocol was designed.

Tony would you claim that there shouldn't be any exclusive assignment of
license plate numbers as well?

The Internet flourished because computer scientists were able to play a
crucial role as part of a government entity.

The Internet isn't some wild and wooley west. It grew up as a
communications system because of the collaboration of government and
scientists and those operating the computers and the networks, etc.

Isn't it necessary to figure out what made this collaboration possible and
do something to build on those lessons, rather than pretending that the
Internet is some figment of someone's imagination and one can make up any
means one wants to manipulate it.


Netizens: On the History and Impact
of Usenet and the Internet
in print edition ISBN 0-8186-7706-6


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 4 Jul 1999 22:58:09 -0400 (EDT)
From: Ronda Hauben <>
To: nettime-l@desknl
Subject: Problem of U.S. government and ICANN

Following is a post from the IFWP mailing list on the problem of the U.S.
government planning to turn over to ICANN essential Internet functions:

Jim Dixon <> wrote:

On Fri, 2 Jul 1999, Pete Farmer wrote:

>>>I look at the ICANN process a little differently. It isn't really a
>>substitute for NSI as much as it would be a substitute for the government.

That's true. ICANN is taking over as the government entity to give out
Internet contracts. But ICANN isn't a government entity, has none of the
machinery or safeguards of a government entity.

As Elaine Kamarck from the Kennedy School of Government said at the Berkman
Center meeting in January about ICANN and whether a membership structure
could provide oversight, the nonprofit or any other corporate form for such
an organization is an inappropriate form for somethimg that will have
companies and people's economic lives in its control.

She said that was what government has been created to do, not a nonprofit,
membership organization. A nonprofit membership organization is for a
voluntary organization of people joined together to influence governnment
or do something else like that. It is not an appropriate form for an entity
that will control essential functions of the Internet.

>>Perhaps the establishment of ICANN was the worst possible way to handle
>>the situation -- except for all of the alternatives.

>Churchill's original was better phrased and made far more sense.

>People should not forget that what gave us ICANN in its current form was
>the death of Jon Postel. Had he lived, ICANN would have made a certain
>sense. It would have had an amiable but ill-informed board whose main
>function would have been to deflect attention from Postel and friends, who
>would be actually setting policy. This would have been a continuation of
>the status quo, which worked.

Jon Postel was being used in the creation of ICANN. I was at the IFWP
meeting in Geneva and he sat outside the meetings for much of the IFWP
meetings that I saw him around. It wasn't his creation. He was a contractor
for the U.S. government and it was the U.S. government that was creating

And I wonder who you are referring to by Postel's friends who would be
setting policy. The point was that those around him who were part of the
IANA government advisory committee have been pushing for ICANN and to
control ICANN and are not folks with a means of contributing anything
useful at this point.

The problem is that no thought that considers the nature of the Internet
has gone into creating ICANN. If it had, my proposal would have been taken
very seriously. It was one of the original proposals for what to do about
figuring out how to create an appropriate institutional form to protect
IANA. Its at

ICANN builds in the conflict of interest problems that make it impossible
to solve any of the policy questions.

And the U.S. government has no authority to give these functions away to
any private entity.

>>You say that there was no better alternative. You are quite wrong.
>>>The better alternative would have been that Jon Postel not die in
>>October of 1998. Then ICANN would be something that we could disagree
>>with but trust.

No - Postel had thrown his hands up with this all. He is quoted at a
roundtable discussion at INET '98 (in IEEE Spectrum) as saying something
like Wall Street investment people and bankers are getting involved in this

>>ICANN in its present form is an accident, a monstrosity, a thing
>>potentially of great power, but without any practical understanding of
>>the Internet or any vision of where it should go.

It's no more an accident than the Nato bombing of Serbia was nor the
bombing of civilian populations in Germany by Great Britain during WWII was.

It is an example of an ill founded policy decision. One that claims
objectives will be accomplished that are impossible to accomplish by the
means being taken.

For example, the British bombing of German civilian targets during WWII
claimed it would end the war. It extended the war, killed British military
folks as well as German civilians. This is an example of a bad policy

On the other hand the policy decision to develop radar before WWII was a
good policy decision on the part of the British government.

The problem is to stop bad policy decisions from being made by governments,
especially where it concerns science and technical issues. This means there
needs to be a good mechanism of advice for government officials who will
make these decisions. This process broke down in the U.S. with regard to
the decision to create ICANN, and it doesn't seem the problem is as of yet
being acknowledged.

On the other hand the creation of the Internet is the result of the good
policy decision to create ARPA and then IPTO and to have government support
computer scientists.

>>My hope is that you not get all hung up in the "who knew what and when
>>did they know it" story of how the interim Board was selected. The
>>selection was at best messy and chaotic. No question. So it is with the
>>formation of most new organizations.

>In fact we must never ever lose sight of this essential question.

Yes I agree. It is important to know who was involved in the behind the
scenes manuevers to create ICANN and why.

It may be that that is what is crucial in order to figure out what the
obstacle is to create an appropriate protective institution for the
essential functions of the Internet.

>>In fact while the formation of most new organizations may be chaotic,
>>where the organisation is of any significance it is usually quite clear
>>who is forming it and what its authority derives from. In this particular
>>case, the organisation is of global significance and many of its
>>proponents claim that it will govern the Internet, so these questions are
>>unusually important.

Yes - thought has often gone into creating an appropriate organization or
institution to establish the principles that it is being created to promote.

My sense is that there is some plan for why ICANN is being created and how,
but it is being done in secret because it is something the parties realize
is a violation of existing law and also the U.S. Constitution. The law I
feel is being violated is the Government Corporate Control Act which
prevents the U.S. Executive from forming private corporations to do
government functions.

This law was enacted in the 1940's to stop the kind of unaccountable
entities that had been created to get around the kind of accounting and
oversight rules that government institutions had to adhere to.

>Insofar as ICANN is the successor to IANA, it is a body of quite narrow
>scope and extremely limited powers. IANA was a focal point of cooperation
>in the Internet. Its authority was moral authority, derived from trust.
>Time will tell whether that trust will pass on to ICANN. So far the
>evidence is that trust is limited.

But did *not* exist in a vacuum. It was a contract with ARPA.

And both IANA and ARPA were subject to rules and laws of the U.S. government.

What my study of ARPA/IPTO has clarified is that it is because of the
nature of the entity providing the leadership of computer scientist, that
the grassroots were able to have democratic and participatory processes.
Take away the leadership and the responsibility of the leadership and you
lose the ability to have grassroots processes.

The trust that IANA had gained was because it had grown up as part of an
important government institution ARPA/IPTO and it functioned according to
the principles and procedures that that institution had created.

Take all that away, and you are left with the battle of potential and
present government contractors for a bigger cut of the pie.

ARPA IPTO had been created to protect scientists against the vested
interests and their power plays.

If you get rid of the government connection, then all you have are the
power plays of the vested interests.

>Insofar as we are talking about the imperial ICANN, the one that wants to
>regulate the Internet, the one that is trying to obtain legal authority
>over all IP address space and the domain name system, it is of primary
>importance that we know who the ICANN board represents. No one living in a
>democracy can be at all comfortable with hidden manipulations, with groups
>of great power created by shadowy forces without any clear legal authority.

>The essential problem is that IANA's moral authority, which was based on
>trust and long experience, is to be replaced by legal authority vested in
>ICANN, without any mandate for this transformation from the Internet
>community at large or from the various political entities involved in the

But it wasn't that IANA had a "moral" authority. It's authority derived
from the fact it was an entity doing a legitimate function of government.
And it was doing it as part of government.

>Gordon Cook claims that the "European Union" is behind all of this. In
>fact the vast bulk of the people in Europe have never heard of these
>issues and have no understanding of them. What you have instead is a very
>small and loose grouping of middle ranking civil servants in what everyone
>now understands to be a throroughly corrupt European Commission claiming
>that their own policies are the policies of the European Union.

I saw that the Federal Networking Council meeting in 1996 where there was
discussion of privatizing the domain name system mentioned bringing in the
EU. So I wonder which came first, the U.S. government ill founded decision
to privatize the IANA functions or the EU effort to get their piece of the
privatized pie.

Sadly it hasn't up to now seemed as if any of those involved early on have
said that the Internet is important and that it needs protection, from the
vested interests, not power plays over which vested interest gets which
piece of pie.

>In other words, don't blame what is going on on the EU and don't claim
>widespread political support for all of this.

>>Instead --

>>- Focus on the ICANN bylaws and the method for structuring the ICANN
>>board **going forward**

>>[more suggestions that we look away from ICANN's essential problems deleted]

>>I think these are the issues that matter.

>If ICANN is an organisation with very narrowly defined technical purposes,
>as its articles of incorporation say it is, the issue that matters is
>whether this woolly little group can carry out those narrow purposes. My
>guess is that it can't, but if it can't, the Internet will just work out
>another way or set of ways to carry out these functions.

But ICANN is *not* an organization with any "narrow" anything.

The IP numbers, root server system, domain name system, and protocol
process are such that whoever controls them controls the Internet and
wields enormous power.

Thus it can't be that any by laws or articles of incorporation limit this
power, they are just a means of masking who is gaining that power.

>If ICANN is to become the seat of global Internet governance, something
>that IANA never aspired to, then the core issues are authority,
>legitimacy, and trust.

Whether IANA aspired to something or not is not the issue.

What power does control of the IP numbers and other essential functions of
the Internet bestow on whoever controls these functions?

And then how can one protect the Internet and its users from those who want
to grab this power? This is the question that the U.S. governments illegal
decision to privatize IANA leads to.

>ICANN claims ultimate authority over the Internet, without any shred of
>justification for this claim. They claim the right to control our name
>servers and tax our IP address space. There is no basis in law for these
>claims, especially where this California corporation claims to have rights
>over assets in foreign countries.

ICANN is an illegal entity. It is *not* a charity but it is incorporate
under laws for charities.

But that doesn't seem to bother those who are behind the scenes making
their power play to grab control of the Internet.

>We have no way of knowing where these people came from or who they
>represent. They have no mandate from the Internet community. They may
>represent those who selected them. But we don't know who did the
>selecting. That is, the ICANN board lacks any legitimacy.

They have no mandate from the Internet community. But why are they there?
Who are they and why were these people willing to do the bidding of this
secret process?

Why don't they reveal what they know?

They have no concern for the Internet. Otherwise they would be letting the
Internet community know where they came from and helping to unravel the
mess that put them on the board.

>The ICANN board refuses to conduct its deliberations in public. So we also
>have no way of knowing how they reach the decisions that they lack the
>authority to make. There is good reason to believe that they keep their
>deliberations private to prevent the outside world from seeing that
>certain board members never participate and from learning just how
>ill-informed and partial this board is.

It seems those involved were picked because they represented a conflict of
interest, rather than that they were able to act above narrow private
interests in the internet of the Internet and the Internet community.

>Personally, I think that the arrogance of the ICANN board is astounding.
>Your insistence that we bow to it is incomprehensible.

Yes it is incredible that after over a year of discussion and clarification
of what harm ICANN represents to the Internet, the U.S. government and the
other government entities who seem involved, none of these seem to be
willing to come out and say that something is wrong with what is happening
with regard to ICANN and that the ICANN creation process needs to be
stopped and something healthy put in its place.


Netizens: On the History and Impact
of Usenet and the Internet
in print edition ISBN 0-8186-7706-6