New Trends on Internet Governance

How to Manage the Internet - Globally?

A presentation paper to ASOCI'98
November 26, 1998

Izumi Aizu
Principal, Asia Network Research Sdn. Bhd.
Secretary General, Asia and Pacific Internet Association

It's often asked: 'Who manages the Internet?' Sometimes the answer is said: "Nobody". But that is not true. With hundreds of thousands of networks interconnected globally linking hundreds of millions of computers each other smoothly, a very well-coordinated mechanisms must exist. Well, it does.

One of the hottest issues surrounding Internet today is 'Governance': how you 'manage' the process of the change of Internet so that the social value of Internet is maintained and developed without destabilizing its operation. Central to the issue today is the coordination of key technical functions of Internet, namely Domain Name, IP Address allocation and Network protocol standardization.

The Domain Name System was first introduced to provide easier use of Internet. Name is certainly much easier to remember and use than sheer numbers. In addition to the simple numbers to determine the address of any computer connected to the Internet. The issue here is how and who manages these name spaces, number allocations and other technical standardization. Conventionally, the Domain Name system has been managed by a research unit of University of Southern California called Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), and the most popular domain, '.com' has been managed by a U.S. corporation called Network Solutions Inc.(NSI), both under contract with U.S. government agencies, IANA with Department of Defense and NSI with National Science Foundation (NSF).

As Internet became widely used with business community and ordinary citizens all over the world, the allocation of Domain Names became center of attention. A domain name with '.com' was originally allocated for U.S. commercial entities, but since it has the advantage of simple string structure without requiring country code domains (such as .us or .my) , it became the global, universal identifier of commercial address on Internet. That has created a number of issues.

Conventional trademark holders found offended when some unknown entity from the other side of the world all of a sudden start to use the same trademark as theirs with '.com' without their knowledge. Who owns the intellectual property right of '.com' names.? Trademarks are under 'national' system and do not have universal system, unlike the Domain Names.

After NSI started to charge registration fee for '.com' names spaces, a number of 'alternative' registry candidates emerged that they too want to join the same business. The demand for global commercial domain names is vast and single '.com' is seen not sufficient. Proposals to create new commercial domains such as .biz or .shop have been around. How to increase these, who makes the decision? With increasing numbers of trademark conflicts resulting law suites and accusation of NSI and IANA for their monopolistic behavior and practice increasing, people came to question the central issue where does the legitimacy for these entities come from?

That was why and when the US government came to intervene. In July 1997, announcing the call for a 'Global Framework for E-Commerce', including the proposal of 'tax-free' zone on Internet, US Department of Commerce also started the policy study of Domain Name and IP Address management issues. Six month later, headed by Ira Magaziner, senior advisor to the President Clinton, after consulting with many stakeholders, issued a first policy proposal called 'Green Paper'.

In it Magaziner made clear that US Government has historically involved with the development of Internet including much funding by the US taxpayers money, thus they have certain rights and responsibilities of Internet operation. Yet he also admitted the strong tradition of bottom-up approach by global Internet community that made Internet so successful.

Responding to the solicitation by the White House, more than 600 comments on Green Paper were sent. Most of them, however, are somewhat critical. Main criticism was placed on its ヤUS-centricismユ. The Green Paper called for an established of new global, private-sector driven non-profit entity in charge of Domain Name coordination, under US non-profit law, with several details of its policy and structure.

After receiving these criticisms and opinions, Department of Commerce came with the revised proposal, the White Paper in June 1998. It maintained the policy position to establish a new international, private-sector driven, non-profit corporation, but put it in more open and inclusive style to handle these matters and left most of the details to the hands of new entity itself. This time, the Internet community as well as some concerned governments received it much more positively.

With the contracts between NSI and NSF expiring at the end of September, and in response to the White Paper, world-wide effort to create new entity began. International Forum on White Paper (IFWP), an ad-hoc international group consisted of many trade organizations involved with Internet business was formed to discuss and define mutual consensus among the many diverse stakeholders in the world, through a series of workshops held in July and August. The meeting started in Washington D.C. in early July, moved to Geneva in late July, then one in Singapore in mid-August and another in Buenos Aires in late August. It was called 'a Global Circus'. In parallel to these meetings, many heated discussions were carried out on mailing lists online.

What became the central issue was that of 'accountability' how to ensure the new managing body be accountable, and to whom. IANA published its version of bylaws draft for the new entity, and that was seen as more 'closed' self-selecting board of directors and self-determining the supporting organizations and not accepting open membership. IANA argument can be summarized as: Since managing Domain Names and IP Address allocations requires much technical expertise and cannot simply be put open to anyone. That will easily result in captivation of some ill-intentional folks.

This position met strong opposing voices, however. Their opinion can be summarized as: Internet now became global asset or public trust and hence requires open, transparent and accountable mechanism and operation. Anyone can and should have voice over how this mechanism be managed and evolved. New entity must have open membership; clear line of decision making process and responsibilities; the board must be elected by memberユs voting; they must be impeachable by members should some wrongdoing found.

There are one more issue besides accountability: the regional representation. Asia and Pacific Internet Association (APIA) has been engaged in this global process aggressively to promote and represent the regional views and interests. Thus APIA have organized a meeting in Singapore in August as one of IFWP meetings in cooperation with a number of peer organizations in the region.

One of the characteristics of the Internet is, of course, its global reach and use. However, in reality, the center of the gravity of most of the activities still resides in the US, with the its strong historic and economic background. Naturally, unless more conscious efforts are made, many decisions and mechanisms tend to become US centric. Or that of the West, economically advanced, developed nations. When 'private sector' is assured to drive the Internet, for example, that could mean those commercial companies that have money and talent. And the majority of them are US companies today. So, it is quite possible that most operations of new entity can be dominated by US commercial interests in the end - unless Asia Pacific voices are raised.

In the developing part of the world, this is not so much welcome. In many Asian countries, the Internet has been, at least in its initial stages, nurtured by research and educational community supported by the government funding. This is actually mostly applied to the U.S. and many advanced countries as well, at least a few years ago. In the commercialization process, there still seems much government support and regulation are undertaken in Asia. It is easy to criticize these and ask for open, free-market principles be applied. I personally agree with them in principle, yet unless certain conditions are met and measures are taken, it may not result in a healthy growth of the Internet as a whole.

In Singapore, we tried to emphasize and explain these differences. In Asia, we said, the distinction between government and private sector is not that clear; unless government is involved, it is very difficult for private sector to enact 'self-governance'; Asian culture is different from that of the West. These seemed well noted by participants from the West. In the revised draft proposed by IANA later, some changes of languages were seen including these points we discussed.

At the end of September, the U.S. Government published a number of ヤfinal draftユ proposals sent to them by private groups including that of IANA. They are one from IANA, another from Boston Working Group, and another from Open Root Server Coalition. The U.S. Government solicited the comments again from any interested party and after receiving these, they issued a letter asking ICANN (new IANA) to take necessary steps to consult with BWG and ORSC to achieve broad consensus in terms of membership and accountability issues.

During this period, a sad very sad and surprising event happened. Dr. Jon Postel, the man who founded the Domain Name System and maintained the technical standard for Internet from the very beginning, and later become the director of IANA, passed away on Oct 20th. Despite the shock and loss for the Internet Community, ICANN held its first interim Board meeting in New York City and started to discuss with BWG and ORSC for possible consensus building. They are also calling for 'Special Open Meeting' to be held on November 14th in Boston.

In the mean time, Domain Name Supporting Organization (DNSO) which will become one of two supporting organizations under ICANN was established thorough a meeting held in Barcelona, Spain in late September by many of Country NICs and three regional, ARIN (American Registry ..), RIPE-NCC, and AP-NIC. DNSO is planning to organize their first open meeting in Monterey, Mexico, on November 15th to 17th.

Through these process, it is hoped that the Internet community at large will find ways to reconcile the fierce arguments, reach a constructive consensus and secure the stable operation of Domain Name administration as well as other technical operation of the global Internet.

Web sites:
Singapore Meetingブランク
US Department of Commerce/NTIAブランク
NSI ブランク

IFWP Supporting Organizations

Association for Interactive Media (AIM)*
Arizona Internet Access Association (AIAA)
Association of Internet Professionals (AIP)*
Association of Online Professionals (AOP)*
Asia & Pacific Internet Association (APIA)*
Camara Argentina de Bases de Datos y Servicios en Linea (CABASE)*
Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP)*
Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT)
Commercial Internet eXchange Association (CIX)*
Computer Software and Services Association (CSSA)*
Confederation for British Industry (CBI)
DNRC (Domai Name Rights Coalition)*
Educom/Educause *
European Internet Service Providers Association (EuroISPA)*
Information Technology Association of America (ITAA)*
International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)
Internet Alliance (IA)
Internet Law & Policy Forum (ILPF)
Internet Service Providers Consortium (ISP/C)*
Internet Service Providers of the UK (ISPA-UK)
Internet Society (ISOC)*
Open Root Server Coalition (ORSC)*
Society for College and University Planning (SCUP)*
US Council for International Business (USCIB)

PRESS RELEASE after the AP-IFWP Singapore Meeting

Singapore August 13, 1998

More than 130 participants gathered from August 11-13, 1998, in Singapore to discuss the formation of a new mechanism to oversee shared Internet resources-

The participants represented 32 countres and economies: 18 in Asia Pacific, 8 in Europe, 4 in the Americas, and two in Africa. The 18 Asia Pacific countries are Australia, Papua New Guinea, Niue, Fiji, Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, India, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka.

The meeting is the third in a series of international workshops being organized by the IFWP to develop greater understanding of Internet self-governance issues and a consensus on organizing principles for a new administrative entity that will assume management over Internet domain names and Internet (IP) addresses. The first IFWP workshop was held in Washington, DC on July 1-2,1998, and the second in Geneva, Switzerland on July24-25 1998. The fourth regional workshop for Latin America and the Caribbean will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina on August 20-21, 1998. In addition, a meeting of European Union industry took place in Brussels on July 7, 1998.

Singapore's workshop was the first to raise and discuss in detail the issue of funding for the new corporation. Delegates also discussed whether the new corporation should consist of members; the qualifications and powers of the Board of Directors; how to prevent the corporation from being dominated by one group or region; how to ensure that developing countries' interests are represented; the duties of councils, which are envisioned as groups of experts within the corporation; whether there should be one or many firms, and how to ensure that drectors are accountable to stakeholders.

Several delegates expressed a view that the substantial role of Asia-Pacific governments in promoting the Internet should be acknowledged and that any attempt to exclude governments might result in reducing some countries' role. As another example of a specific regional concern, it was noted that Stanford University was allocated four times more IP addresses than China.

"The Asia Pacific meeting is an essential link in the process of developing international agreement on Internet self-management," said Izumi Aizu, conference moderator. "Within the next decade and a half the Asia Pacific region will contain the largest number of Internet users and customers. It is crucial that this region's interests are adequately considered during this formative period," he added

The meetings were organized by the private sector following the release of the US Government's so-called White Paper in June, 1998. It proposed turning over full responsibility over Internet resources - the Domain Name System (DNS), IP addresses, and protocols - to the private sector but left the details for the new supervisory corporation to private sector individuals, corporations, and associations to develop. The IFWP was organized specifically to focus the private sector's efforts to develop a consensus on a new management entity.

The purpose of the workshops is to bring together the diverse stakeholder groups and experts to.
1. Learn, identify, and articulate the issues-
2. Prepare models, set of common principles, structures, and general charter provisions for the formation of the new corporation; and
3 Formulate a process to bring true global perspective and participation to this new self-governance mechanism by identifying and raising regional interests.

Inputs from the result of the two previous IFWP regional meetings (North America and Europe/Middle East/Africa) and the Brussels meeting were presented and shared.

The hosts of the Asia and Pacific regional meeting were the Asia Pacific Networking Group (APNG), Asia Pacific Internet Association (APIA), Asia Pacific Policy and Legal Forum (APPLe), Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), Asia Pacific Development Information Program (APDIP) of UNDP (United Nations Development Program), Pan Asia Networking (PAN) of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and Singapore Network Information Centre (SGNIC). Funding for the workshops comes from individuals, corporations and associations.

List of Countries and Economies participated for AP-IFWP Singapore Meeting

1. Australia
2. Papua New Guinea
3. Niue
4. Fiji
5. Japan
6. Korea
7. China
8. Hongkong
9. Taiwan
10 Thailand
11 Philippines
12 Cambodia
13 Malaysia
14 Indonesia
15 Singapore
16. India
17 New Zealand
18 Sri Lanka
19 Ghana
20 South Africa
21 Canada
22 USA
23 Mexico
24 Argentine
25 Belgium
26 Germany
27. Netherlands
28. UK
29. France
30. Switzerland
31. Ireland
32. Spain

Asia & Pacific 18
Africa 2
Americas 4
Europe 8
Total 32