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[I-coordination] New: How do we dissect Internet governance? [Was: Europe at a tipping point?]

Milton L Mueller mueller at
Wed Dec 18 07:10:49 CET 2013

From: George Sadowsky [mailto:george.sadowsky at]

>You are correct in that Brian's rider is a normative statement, i.e. it gives his opinion of the way >things should be, and that statement won't stand in the way of any government that can violate it >in a manner that you suggest.

Good, then we are making some progress!

>But aren't we in the business here of defining such a normative model for Internet governance,

Yes, we are.

>and shouldn't one of the pieces of that model be the separation of a class of technical >administrative issues from (for example) "societal concerns?"

I probably agree with what I take to be your intent, but still cannot buy the way you formulate it.

What you need to do is show why society benefits from neutral technical administration. And you need to define better what "neutral" technical administration consists of. In other words, not trying to engineer too much social control into the infrastructure is in fact a societal concern. Freedom, innovation, adaptability and economic growth are better enabled when technical administrative issues are handled in a way that establishes some very general coordinative mechanisms and does not try to dictate behavior. Important social values are advanced by technical approaches to Internet governance  that allow the broadest range of (nondestructive) conduct, and then relies on other regulative methods (e.g., law, policing) to stop or discourage forms of behavior deemed harmful.

>I don't see the value, or even the correctness, of dismissing proposed normative
>statements by saying that the proposers have their head in the sand.

Sorry for that, but  if Brian's statement were truly a normative one, it would say "Internet governance should not..." when in fact it says, "Internet governance does not..." So it was a positive statement, actually, not a normative one, and as such was not only incorrect, but seemed to be wilfully ignoring reality


On Dec 17, 2013, at 11:33 PM, Milton L Mueller wrote:

>Does anyone resonate to Ben Fuller's attempt to separate some of the components of INternet >governance:
>1. Technical
>2. Community centered
>3. Cross cutting
>Or Brian Carpenter's recent proposed rider:
>Internet governance does not concern the administration of
>technical parameters of the Internet that affect its inner
>workings rather than way it is used by society.

With all due respect, neither of these constructs gets us any traction on any of the important issues.

Brian's "rider" is a proposition that is patently false. Many governments have tried, and some have succeeded, in affecting "the way the internet is used by society" by regulating, influencing or controlling the administration of technical parameters. George - you mentioned "common sense and thinking" - well, think about it commonsensically for two seconds. If a government decides to order the ISPs in its jurisdiction to block access to specific IP addresses, or specific domains, so that users cannot gain access to forbidden content hosted on those IP addresses/domains, then it is regulating use by intervening in the "administration of technical parameters...that affect the Internet's inner workings." If a government goes further and seizes control of the allocation and assignment of IP addresses (e.g., licensing them the way radio spectrum bands are licensed or as printing presses used to be licensed), then the two are linked even closer. There are many other possible examples.

I am not _advocating_  that governments or others do this, I am simply telling you that it is a fact that they can and sometimes do. We probably agree that it would be a very bad thing if they did. But Brian and certain others seem to be incapable of making the distinction between what really happens in the world and what they would prefer to see happen. It seems that their purpose in introducing the artificial distinction between "use by society" and "administration of technical parameters" is the vain hope that by verbally separating these two things that somehow interventions designed to control the internet will magically disappear. Got news for ya: they won't. You are just proposing to bury your head in the sand.

>Can we effectively separate out those functions that deal completely with Internet technical >operation and administration, or not?


>If not, why not?  In the latter case, examples would really >be helpful to understand that
>point of view.

You've already been given several examples. Radio spectrum licensing was one. Domain names and trademarks mandatory dispute resolution policies were another. Please stop ignoring them.

Here is another. George Sadowsky voted against ICANN's addition of new top level domains. He believed, sincerely I think, that the addition of new unique character strings to the root zone (a matter of technical management) would result in internet uses that are not in the public interest (a public policy judgment). In other words, he linked technical administration and use regulation. When he did that, he was refuting the arguments made here more effectively than anything I can add.


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