Ronda Hauben on Sat, 17 Jul 1999 20:58:36 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> ICANN out of Control?

Recently on some mailing lists, there has begun to be some discussion of
what new institutional form there should be for IANA, if any, in place of
the dysfunctional form that ICANN represents. 

This is an important discussion. 

Instead of the U.S. government supporting serious study of this question,
which would include exploring what role there should be for government,
for the computer science community, for users, for corporate entities,
etc. there was no discussion and instead a model unrelated to Internet
development was plopped down and presented as the required solution. 

What role is needed for government and for computer scientists? 

What role for users? 

What role for others? 

There has been some discussion on the IFWP list recently claiming that a
new form is needed, but denying that there is anything to learn from
looking at the history of the development of the Internet in designing
that form. 

ICANN was created to avoid the legitimate examination of these issues. 

It was and is a power play of the worst kind by U.S.  government officials
involved and their advisors whoever they be. 

Otherwise they would have been open to ask the legitimate questions and to
find where the answers are to be found. 

The Internet is not a "finished" entity. It is a complex human computer
networking system. Scientific and grassroots science expertise continue to
be needed to identify the problems and help to figure out the solutions. 

A crucial aspect of the governance structure for the first 12 years of the
life of the Internet had to do with being a part of the IPTO institutional

That institutional form is gone. 

That institutional form was very important in making it possible for key
scientists who are the Internet's founding fathers to be able to do the
work needed to create the Internet and to solve the many problems of
helping it to grow and flourish. 

There needs to be some understanding of that institutional form to
understand how to scale that form up. That institutional form made it
possible for people of different nations to work together to build the

How this was done needs to be understood and the needed lessons learned. 

The old governance structures have been prematurely disgarded and instead
ancient structures from non networking political ideological viewpoints
have been transplanted as the future for the Internet. 

Instead of the organizations like the Internet Society being a place where
the genuine questions of Internet development can be discussed, a small
group of people have carefully controlled what is allowed to happen.

Other countries have had different views and when the INET meetings are in
those countries, like the meeting in Canada in 1996, it is clear that the
opinion of people is *not* for an only commercial and buying and selling
future for the Internet. 

Certain policy making circles have made decisions to create ICANN or to
keep ISOC talking about privatizing all aspects of the Internet -- these
are *not* places where the real problems of the development of the
Internet are raised nor real efforts made to find what the solutions will

Instead decisions that affect millions of people are being made by some
process and people far away from where there can be any input from those
who will be affected by the decisions. This has been the lesson from
observing the creation and development of ICANN over the past year. 

Today, however, there was a notice at the U.S. House of Representatives
Commerce Committee web site of an upcoming Congressional Hearing by the
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on "Domain Name System
Privatization: Is ICANN Out of Control?"

It is good to see that there is some effort by the U.S. Congress to
investigate what has happened with the creation and manipulation behind
the scenes of ICANN by the U.S. Congress. 

Such investigation is needed. 

The hearing is listed as being scheduled for Thursday, 
July 22, 1999 at 10:00 a.m.

The URL is


A draft of a paper I have recently written about the development of the
ARPA/IPTO institutional form is at or

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

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