Replying to ICANN's draft 2009 Operating Plan and Budget, the Security and Stability Advisory Committee submitted comments last week vying for its piece of the estimated $60 million ICANN revenue pie. But the interesting story is not the dollar amounts requested by SSAC, rather their request for a specific line item for “Management of certificates for the addressing system (RPKI).” This request to put ICANN in the middle of controlling routing security raises many governance issues.
This is the most intensely political ICANN meeting I have ever been in, with the possible exception of Berlin 1999. Part of the cause is the GNSO structural reform, which has the various constituencies snarling at each other about vote distributions. Multilingual domain names, which combines market pressures with geopolitics, adds to the mix. But one of the main causes is the escalating power of ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC).
GAC is gradually inserting itself ever more persistently into the so-called bottom-up, nongovernmental policy making process of ICANN. As this happens, the politics of ICANN become ever more high-level and difficult for ordinary Internet users to access. As this happens, some of its more ambitious members of the GAC are chafing at its “Advisory” status. It is evident that many governments have trouble understanding the idea that their role is only to provide advice and guidance to ICANN on matters within their jurisdiction, and that they are (supposed to be) one of many “stakeholder groups.” Which goverment has the most trouble here? The answer may surprise you. It is not China or Russia, or some other authoritarian state. Nor is it Brazil or South Africa, or any other state that led the charge against ICANN during WSIS. No, it is the USA.
But fortunately, there are some people within ICANN willing to assert its autonomy and stand up to state pressure. The following dialogue between ICANN's Board Chair Peter Dengate Thrush reveals an unexpectedly stiff spine. In the following exchange, the US GAC representative, Commerce Department's Suzanne Sene, is badgering ICANN's Board about GAC's advice that it do “studies” on Whois – privacy. We repeat the exchange here with only a few excisions. It makes for delightful reading. The Board chair politely but firmly explains to the US government how ICANN — an organization it set up — is supposed to work.
A draft of the independent review of the At-Large Advisory Committee to ICANN has recently been published (a summary can be found here). The authors conclude that ALAC has made progress, but due to several factors, has not made any significant contributions. Under the current system, the prohibitive costs associated with active participation ensure that only a select group of people, representing concentrated interests, will ever be able to consistently participate and make significant contributions to the Internet governance process.
[Editor's note: IGP graduate intern Mark Costa, a doctoral student at Syracuse University's School of Information Studies, joins us today as a guest blogger. Mark recently returned from the 2008 National Conference on Media Reform, one of the largest annual gatherings of domestic media advocates in the United States.]
I recently attended the National Conference for Media Reform in order to build bridges between Internet governance and advocates of free speech and media reform.
At the the upcoming Paris meeting of ICANN June 23 – 28 some reforms may be made which could greatly improve ICANN's representative structure. In a nutshell, representation of noncommercial users (public interest groups, NGOs, and individuals of a public interest bent) will be increased from its current 14%, possibly to 25% or one-third. This will also involve a change in the nature of noncommercial interest representation in ICANN.
The NCUC is inviting all civil society organizations with an interest in the Internet and its global governance to be aware of this and take advantage of it. You do not have to go to Paris to participate. They are using online collaboration tools to extend the meeting between the ICANN Noncommercial Users Constituency (NCUC) and the At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) globally. NCUC will be using the Elluminate platform to permit remote participation in the meeting. Attendees will be able to pose questions or participate in the discussion, as well as be able to hear discussions going on in the meeting.
Two US Government contractors and the National Institute of Science and Technology have released a white paper, “Statement of Needed Internet Capability,” detailing possible alternatives and considerations for a Trust Anchor Repository (TAR) to support DNSSEC deployment. Importantly, the document highlights policy choices, and raises interesting questions about a Global TAR as a solution for helping secure the DNS and the role of national security interests.
Public Interest Registry wants to implement DNSSEC in the .org zone. According to ICANN's regulations, this is a “new registry service” and it has to be reviewed by a committee of technical experts to assess its impact on the security and stability of the Internet before it can be approved. The expert panel released its report on PIR's proposal June 4. The report, like so many things associated with DNSSEC implementation, has fascinating implications which are buried in technical details that few people will understand. One conclusion that could be drawn from the report is that the US government's insistence on maintaining control of the root zone file is actually decreasing Internet security.
Initiated in spring 2006 in conjunction with the UN Internet Governance Forum, the Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GigaNet) is hosting several events this year, including an upcoming international workshop on
“Global Internet Governance: An Interdisciplinary Research Field in Construction” in Paris, 23 June 2008, from 08:30 to 13:30, concurrent with the ICANN-Paris meeting. [invitation-fr] [invitation-en]
The purpose of the workshop, the first of its sort, is to allow scholars involved in Internet Governance related research to describe their ongoing research projects to other scholars in the field, in order to share ideas, forge possible collaborations, and identify emerging research themes in the field. Scholars from various academic disciplines and all regions of the world are expected to contribute to this reflexive exercise, with the long-term objective of collectively building this interdisciplinary research field.
This is a book about Internet governance, despite the fact that the author refuses to use that term and, near the end of the book, rather testily distances himself from the Internet Governance Forum and related attempts to develop and reform global Internet governance. Despite that, the book is a well-researched and well-constructed analysis of the architectural issues underlying some of the policy problems (and opportunities) facing the Internet. It is worth reading – and worth critiquing – for the debate will shed light on some of the key choices we have to make regarding the governance of the Internet. Although Zittrain inevitably couches his argument in terms of technical architecture, “tools” and “code,” the problems the book raises are often more political than technical. His analysis suffers a bit from the lack of a more sustained and self-conscious engagement with the political, international and institutional aspects of Internet governance. This blog post conducts a full review.