IGP Fellowships to Hyderabad awarded

The Internet Governance Project has awarded two fellowships to young scholars from Poland and China to enable them to attend the Hyderabad Internet Governance Forum and present their research at the 3rd annual Symposium of GigaNet (the Global Internet Governance Academic Network). Dr. Joanna Kulesza, of the University of Lodz Faculty of Law and Administration, will present a paper titled “Internet governance and the jurisdiction of states.” Dr. Zhuo Zhang, of the Wuhan University School of Journalism and Communication, China, will present her paper (co-authored with Handong Wang): “Two Kinds of Violence: Internet Governance and Internet Mob in Mainland China.”

VeriSign's plan to sign the root

VeriSign has publicly released its proposal to sign the root, which it sent to the NTIA on September 22. Their proposal comes on the heels of ICANN submitting their own (yet to be publicly released) proposal to the NTIA on September 2. VeriSign adds a much needed dimension to the root signing debate, introducing a well known threshold cryptographic technique. But the proposal's reliance on root server operators needs to be considered carefully.

IANA TAR: Pressure by ICANN to be independent?

Last June IGP reported on efforts to develop a trust anchor repository (TAR) to help bootstrap the deployment of DNSSEC. A TAR would provide a centralized location where top level registries could place public key information pertaining to their zone’s trust anchor. The key information could be accessed by secure resolvers to initiate the validation of signed zone data. The TAR idea had been floated by several actors in lieu of the difficulty of getting DNSSEC deployed at the root. It seems that the TAR concept continues to gain traction.

In Geneva: The Debate About “Debate”

Tuesday the Internet Governance Forum held its consultations about the 3rd Forum at Hyderabad, India. I am sorry to report that there are still intense pressures to sanitize the IGF program and to prevent the Forum from grappling with the real global governance problems. In what was clearly an orchestrated move, key people from multinational business groups, the Internet Society and a few Anglo-American governments tried to change a plan to organize plenary sessions around policy debates. These groups insist on viewing debate of controversial Internet policy topics, and systematic consideration of specific policy proposals, as a threat that needs to be contained rather than an opportunity to make their own case. You can see the full transcripts here.

It is well-recognized that the main sessions of the Forum are a failure. The reason is that the programming for these sessions has been totally neutralized by the politics of the IGF’s Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG). The MAG is dominated by status quo oriented representatives of the Internet Society, who are keen to prevent these sessions from becoming anything like a policy-shaping institution. Although governments are more numerous on the MAG, they are also more passive, less well-informed, and perhaps losing interest in the Forum. (Indeed, one new MAG member, YJ Park, commented on the absence of governments from MAG discussions and session programming at the consultation.) And so the Forum annually wastes its most precious opportunity: it brings 1,500 – 2,000 of the world’s most important and well-informed Internet governance experts and advocates into a single room and then subjects them to generic, TV-talk-show discussions that lead nowhere.

Internet Governance Consultations in Geneva

We are in Geneva for a flurry of Internet governance related meetings. Monday morning ICANN held one of its consultation sessions on “Improving Institutional confidence.” The topic of discussion there was “completing the transition,” which is about whether people think ICANN is accountable enough to be released from U.S. supervision. ICANN is holding half a dozen of these sessions around the world. In the original documents and negotiations creating ICANN the concept of a “transition” meant completing the privatization of DNS governance by ending the US Government oversight role. However, the US pulled back from that in 2000 and has since insisted on its intention to keep its hand on the root zone and the IANA contract indefinitely. At the consultation I asked whether the “transition” meant nothing more than an end to the Joint Project Agreement, or something more. Both of the Presidential Strategy Committee members were unable to answer that question.

No Free Lunch: Fast-track ccTLDs require contracts

After three weeks (and a little good-natured prodding) our letter expressing concern about the conditions under which nation-states will be given top–level domains in multilingual scripts under the proposed “fast-track” received this three-line response from ICANN CEO Paul Twomey: “Thank you for your thoughts concerning the deployment of IDNs. ICANN is still working through the process of deployment of IDN TLDs and you will have the opportunity to review the implementation program when it is public.”

Thanks, Paul. Perhaps he was in a hurry and didn’t choose his words carefully, but it’s hard not to notice what the response does not say. It does not say, “you will have an opportunity to comment upon and request changes in the implementation program when it is made public.” Nor did it say “I understand and sympathize with your concerns.”

We fully expect to review any plan – and also to comment upon it, critique it and mobilize opposition if appropriate. There are major issues at stake here. The most important issue, one on which all the others rest, is whether governments will be given these new domains carte blanche, with no contractual obligations. We think any recipient of a new TLD must be required to sign a contract with ICANN.

New Book: “Internet Governance: The New Frontier of Global Institutions”

Routledge Press recently published “Internet Governance: The New Frontier of Global Institutions” by IGP's John Mathiason. Released in the UK on July 30, it will be available in the United States soon. The expansion of the Internet has been called the most revolutionary development in the history of human communications. It is ubiquitous and is changing politics, economics and social relations. Its borderless nature affects the roles of individuals, the magic of the marketplace and the problems of government regulation. As its development has increased apace, contradictions have arisen between existing regulatory regimes, private interests, government concerns, international norms and national interests. Unlike most areas where there are global institutions, and the role of governments is predominant, the Internet is a field where the private sector and civil society each have a role as important – or sometimes more important – than governments.