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[I-coordination] A different model

Phillip Hallam-Baker hallam at
Tue Dec 10 17:53:41 CET 2013

On Tue, Dec 10, 2013 at 11:14 AM, Bob Bruen <korg at> wrote:

> Hi Phillip,
> Your thoughtful email desverves more than I am about to give, but I want
> to make two points in response, because they relate to many other posts.
> 1) The US does have a privileged position with ICANN. This is the result
> of history. The US invented the Internet and has driven much of its
> development. The US has not really done very much to influence ICANN's
> work, when it could have done more.

The US government financed the development of Internet protocols. But the
actual concepts came from an international collaboration from the start.
The idea of a network of network actually came from a Frenchman. The Web
was invented by a Brit. Until 1993 there were dozens of networks and
network protocol stacks. The world decided to adopt TCP/IP and the Internet
for two reasons. First it was the network that had all the World Wide Web
content on it but secondly it was considered to be the open platform choice.

> I understand the rest of the world wants more of a say in what ICANN does,
> but they are not being held back by the US. The ICANN meetings are filled
> with people from all over the world expressing their opinions. Many of he
> top positions in ICANN (eg CEO, COO, Compliance) are help by non-Americans
> Believe it or not, many Americans like the world wide input.

My analysis is intended to be descriptive, not normative.

One of the problems in the current situation is that ICANN keeps expressing
a desire to be free of US oversight but has been unable to propose an
alternative or indeed recognize the need for any alternative.

This is where I think there is a fundamental disconnect between ICANN and
the governments it seeks to make common cause with. Those governments are
only interested in a transfer of supervision, whether it be direct (Russia,
China, Iran) or last resort (most of the rest). I don't think there is any
government that has the slightest interest in removing US oversight without
some form of last resort replacement mechanism.

> Attacking the US position is more of a attempt to take perceived power
> away from the US than anything else. Moreover, if ICANN were suddenly
> totally free or under the influence of some other government or group of
> governments, there is no evidence that things would be better. In fact,
> things could get much worse. For example, think about the UN Security
> Council's inability to do things, because one or two members veto a
> proposal.

The UN security council was designed to prevent a direct war between the
permanent members. It has succeeded in the objective it was designed to

> 2) My second point is about the definition of Internet Governance, where
> you say the Internet is ungovernable and previously pointed out the
> difference between the technical view and the political view. I agree with
> you.

Some factions in the US government equate 'ungoverned' with 'failed state'.
I have heard some compare the Internet to Somalia.

Looking at the Internet, there seems to me that there is nothing to
> govern. Governments can try to control things like access and content, but
> only within their borders.  The rest of world is not subject to what a
> particular government chooses.
> If you or anyone else can provide a base definition of IG, I would
> appreciate it. What does governing the Internet mean?

I would list the following as legitimate and essential government concerns:

1) Protecting access to the Internet
2) Protecting Internet assets
3) Protecting its ability to perform (1) and (2)

Thus stated, government concerns are identical to those of the ordinary
Internet user in the first two respects. The only difference is that a
sovereign government has a much greater responsibility to consider (3) than
other parties. Google and Microsoft consider such issues of course but not
on the same timescales. Governments think in terms of decades and centuries.

Concern 1 is seen in the question of fair access to IPv6 addresses, BGP AS
assignments. There is also a much bigger question of network access and
interchange agreements and who pays for what pipes under what circumstances.

Concern 2 is seen in the question of domain name rights and trademark
infringement. The US must not be allowed to take DNS names hostage in a
trade dispute. There are also some real concerns about abuse of civil
forfeiture procedures.

Concern 3 is seen in the issue of ensuring that switching costs remain low.
It is not necessary for the other governments to replace ICANN with some
other body but they do need to preserve the option of doing so in case of

The last is actually the basis for the Signio payments system that was
bought by VeriSign and later sold to Paypal. The product was a piece of
glue that the merchant connected their systems to which would in turn
connect to the payment provider of their choice. Connecting to Signio was
slightly easier than connecting to the payment provider directly but not by
a huge margin. The reason people connected to their provider through Signio
rather than directly was that they got better rates that way. The reason
the providers offered the better rates is that they knew the switching cost
for those customers was essentially zero.

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