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10/5/05

ICANN has put the Internet at Risk of being split!

Most people have no clue how the Internet is governed or controlled or it's history for that matter. As long as they can turn their computer on and surf the net, they don't really care either. It is a smaller sample of what happens in our government. People don't really take the time to know the issues. They know what they read one time or heard on tv or read in a blog, but they don't really want to take time to research topics to see how it really affects them. Someone famous once said, "Americans will put up with anything as long as it doesn't stop traffic." You should be involved. You could be helping to influence important decisions about who controls the Internet and how it is controlled. This is not a short article but every bit of it is information that you, as a user of the Internet, should know. It is crucial that you know this and get involved if you believe in democracy and you want the Internet to continue to be available to everyone.

Click here to see the early history that led to the development of the Internet.


Did Al Gore invent the Internet? According to a CNN transcript of an interview with Wolf Blitzer, Al Gore said,"During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet." Al Gore was not yet in Congress in 1969 when ARPANET started or in 1974 when the term Internet first came into use. Gore was elected to Congress in 1976. In fairness, Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf acknowledge in a paper titled Al Gore and the Internet that Gore has probably done more than any other elected official to support the growth and development of the Internet from the 1970's to the present .

More about who invented what in regards to the Internet.


Now let's get into how the Internet is governed today. From the Center for Democracy and Technology The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a private, nonprofit corporation that has oversight for key centralized components of the Internet's underlying architecture. These components are:

the global Domain Name System, used to resolve familiar names such as www.un.org into computer addresses;
the IP address hierarchy, through which unique numeric addresses are assigned to the computers that make up the Internet;
the system of root servers used to power the DNS; and other databases for online protocols used in naming and addressing.

Because of ICANN's unique position as manager of critical global resources, numerous questions have arisen regarding its structure, its mission, and its interactions with the global Internet community. ICANN is presently in the midst of a large-scale reform effort aimed at answering such questions.

ICANN is a private non-profit organization, incorporated and headquartered in Los Angeles, California. Founded in November 1998, ICANN was created as a private, bottom-up alternative to government management of key Internet resources like the Domain Name System and IP address allocation hierarchy.

Prior to ICANN's creation these resources were managed on an ad hoc basis by Internet engineers and academics around the world. A significant part of that management took place at the University of Southern California as part of a research grant by the National Science Foundation by people like Internet pioneer Jon Postel. These researchers provided critical coordination for the Internet as a public service, first to the relatively small community of like-minded scientists who used the network, and later to the growing community of worldwide users.

As the Internet began to explode in popularity, a desire to recast such management in a new form began to emerge among policymakers in government and the private sector. In 1998, the Clinton Administration issued a White Paper calling for a new organization to manage centralized Internet systems in accordance with four principles:

Stability. The change in management should not disrupt Internet service. The stability of the Internet, and the security and reliability of the DNS, should be top priorities.
Competition. At the time of the White Paper's issuance, there was no competition in the provisioning of DNS services. One company, Network Solutions, held a monopoly both on selling domain names (the registrar function) and maintaining the database of active domain names (the registry function). The introduction of competition at both levels was to be a priority.
Private, BOTTOM-UP Coordination. The White Paper judged private-sector coordination of these functions to be preferable to government control, since the private sector would be better able to adapt to the rapidly-changing online environment. However, the White Paper emphasized that the Internet's tradition of bottom-up decision-making should be respected.
Representation. The White Paper required that whatever body would manage these functions should represent as well as possible all the different affected elements of the Internet community.

Today, there is no bottom-up coordination unless you consider having IBM, Microsoft, Verisign, Network Solutions, and other large corporations being in control "bottom-up". The white paper intended that all users would have some say in how the Internet was controlled. As far as "representation", ICANN has gone around that as well. The first ICANN Board was to have served for one year, then they were to hold public elections through the "At Large" community for new Board Members. They decided to sit on that board for more than the first year and when they did hold an election, it was for one extra seat on the whole board to represent the millions of users around the world while the rest of the board represented the interests of corporations. Even that Board Member, Karl Auerbach, had to sue the Board to make them let him look at the books. So much for transparency.

ICANN was originally incorporated in 1998 with a nine-member Initial Board. From that time, the ICANN structure has evolved considerably. Presently it rests on two types of institution -- the Supporting Organizations, which have been fully implemented, and the At-Large Membership, which as of this writing has not. But not for lack of trying on the part of it's members. I have been a member of the At Large since 1999.

ICANN has three Supporting Organizations, which between them select half of the ICANN Board of Directors (each Supporting Organization selecting three Directors). Each Supporting Organization is constituted around one of the Internet resources under ICANN's management.

Domain Names Supporting Organization (DNSO). The DNSO is intended to represent the variety of interests affected by ICANN's administration of the DNS. It is governed by a twenty-one member Names Council, three of whom are named by each of the DNSO's seven constituencies.

Business Constituency - Which of course, obviously represents corporations for the most part.
ccTLD (country-code Top-Level Domain) Constituency - Representing the entire rest of the world outside the United States.
gTLD Registries Constituency - Still not sure how their interests are different from the Registrars Constituency listed below.
Intellectual Property Constituency - Who owns most of the Intellectual property? Corporations.
Internet Service Providers and Connectivity Providers Constituency - Again, these are other large corporations like Verisign.
Non-Commercial Domain Name Holders Constituency - Which are not well represented on the Board at all. I run a nonprofit, therefore I am a non-commercial domain name holder. I am not represented fairly on the board.
Registrars Constituency - Representing Network Solutions and other Corporations.

The DNSO also includes a General Assembly, where members of any constituency, as well as members of the interested public, may discuss ICANN's domain names policy. The Names Council appoints the Assembly's Chair; the Assembly does not name any members to the Names Council.

So much for "BOTTOM_UP" For a long time now, I have participated in the General Assembly and we discuss, discuss, discuss, and recommend things to the Names Council that they never adopt because the entire process is not bottom up but is top down.

Address Supporting Organization (ASO) The ASO is made up of the Regional Internet Registries, the bodies responsible for allocating IP addresses on a worldwide basis. It is governed by an Address Council, with three members appointed by each RIR:
APNIC (Asia Pacific Network Information Centre)
ARIN (American Registry for Internet Numbers)
RIPE NCC (Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre)

Protocol Supporting Organization (PSO). The PSO is responsible for advising the ICANN Board on matters relating to Internet protocols, technical standards that let computers exchange information and manage communications over the Internet. Its Protocol Council is made up of two members from each of the Internet's main protocol development bodies:
ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute)
IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force)
ITU (International Telecommunications Union)
W3C (World Wide Web Consortium)

The At-Large Membership Unlike the Supporting Organizations, the At-Large Membership is not yet established as a persistent body at ICANN. In 2000, ICANN held an At-Large Election for the purpose of naming five At-Large Directors to the Board (replacing five members of the Initial Board), but the electorate did not become a long-term membership. In January 2001, ICANN chartered the At-Large Study Committee to study the issue of At-Large Membership. That Committee made its Final Report to the ICANN Board in November 2001, but the Board took no definite action at that time.

Also in early 2001, a partnership of non-profit representatives and academics from around the world created the NGO and Academic ICANN Study, a parallel effort to study the At-Large issue from a perspective emphasizing the importance of the public voice to ICANN's legitimacy. The NAIS project's final report, entitled ICANN, Legitimacy, and the Public Voice: Making Global Participation and Representation Work was presented to the community in September 2001.

Shortly before ICANN's Public Meeting in Ghana (March 2002), ICANN President and CEO Stuart Lynn issued his President's Report: ICANN -- the Case for Reform, in which he laid out a significantly new notion of reform for ICANN, including a reconception of ICANN's Board and other policy bodies. As a result of this new proposal, the ICANN Board took no action on the proposals of the At-Large Study Committee (nor of the NAIS group) and established the Evolution and Reform Committee to consider new directions of ICANN reform. Over the period from March to October 2002, the ERC published several discussion documents and draft "Blueprints for Reform," before publishing its Final Implementation Report in October 2002.

As of (October 2002), ICANN has yet to finish its efforts at reform, nor to fully resolve the questions surrounding the At-Large Membership. The At-Large interest is currently represented at ICANN by five elected Directors (Auerbach, Campos, Katoh, Mueller-Maguhn, Quaynor) and four members of the Initial Board whose terms have been extended (Fitzsimmons, Kraaijenbrink, Murai, Wilson).

As of this writing, (October 2005), they still have not taken ANY action to involve the public in the decision-making process at any level.

How does ICANN affect me? They make decisions as to what new TLDs are to be introduced, such as the recent introduction of .info, .biz, .aero, etc. They decide issues that affect your right to privacy on the Internet (With heavy control of the board in corporate paws, the chance that your privacy will be protected from them, who are the ones that want to gather all your private information, is nil), and they control the method that domain name disputes are handled. Again due to the structure of the baord, 80% of the cases that involve a dispute between a corporation and an individual have been found in favor of the corporation.

Clinton handed down an order for ICANN to create a transparent democratic way of deciding issues that affect the users of the Internet. At every opportunity ICANN has resisted implementing anything that would achieve that. Bush has ignored the antics of the ICANN Board and allowed these corporation representatives to do as they please.

As a result the US risks the entire Internet as you know it. The European Union and other countries are also tired of having no say in regards to what the Board does. They are taking steps to put control of the Internet in the hands of the UN or other International body.

Bush has, in his usual arrogant manner, just stepped up and said "Nope, not gonna happen." Yeah that'll stop them GW. Tough words and military might will not help here. But since this is on an intellectual level that GW has never been to, he will never understand that. We are headed toward a split of the Internet, where instead of being the World Wide Web, there will be the EuroWeb, the ChinaWeb, KoreaWeb, SouthAmericaWeb, etc. ICANN was created with a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Commerce. By this administration not paying attention to the violations of that memorandum, by not including other countries and individual users like you and me into the decision making process, they have opened the door to a revolution by the very people the Internet was to serve.

This is not a theory. It is happening right now. It is not empty threats and rhetoric. Everyone kidded Gore about being stupid, but his understanding of this problem in comparison to ol GW is like comparing Albert Einstein to Barney the Purple Dinosaur.

Bush cannot "bully" this problem away. He cannot "threaten" this problem to go away. He cannot put out "propaganda" to make this problem seem like it's gone away like he has with his education policies. His supporters can't blame this one on Clinton. This happened on Bush's watch because he didn't followup on what Clinton started by making sure that ICANN included a democratic process for the world's Internet users. I personally think Clinton was a putz. Gore probably wrote the white paper for him, but the fact remains that Bush screwed this up. No one else can be blamed here, no matter what spin his supporters try to turn on this one.

It amazes me to have to write that last paragraph though. Every single time you criticize Bush to one of his supporters, they always say well Clinton this or Clinton that. It's like the kid in school. You know the one. They would get in trouble and always say, "well Billy was doing it too". Those are the kids that grew up to become Bush supporters. They talk about Bill Clinton more than all the democrats combined. He's been out of office for more than 6 years, yet bush supporters still use him to compare bush to in every conversation. Get over it.

Please don't think that GW Bush has the answer to this one. He can't attack websites and remove the webmaster because the webmaster was a repressive webmaster. He can't declare war on worldwide democracy on the Internet and say he is for democracy worldwide. He can't say that the people who want a democracratic process to control the Internet are connected to Al Queda.

Right now, everyone needs to write their congressman, senator, or whoever they can to let them know Bush's reaction to this problem needs to be "CLEAN UP ICANN IMMEDIATELY!". Make the board who has held onto their positions illegally resign and hold worldwide elections for replacements who represent users of the Internet, you and I. This is the only way the Internet will remain the World Wide Web. This is the only way it will remain one piece instead of a bunch of fragments. This is the only way the US can make sure that the Internet protects the rights and privacy of individual users. If you do nothing and this happens, you will be partly responsible because you were just to busy to get involved. The Internet's survival depends on our involvement.

Click here to find out how to contact your Representative in Congress and tell them how you feel!

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