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[Internet governance]

December 10, 2003

Business has been clearing up the ICANN confusion - but bemusing me further.

At an International Chamber of Commerce press conference, ICC boss Maria Livanos Cattaui said "internet governance doesn't exist" - but then implied that she thought it should do.

It's a three step argument. Step one: ICANN doesn't, and shouldn't , govern the internet - "it's a very sophisticated directory." Step two: there are lots of complex "public policy" issues that someone needs to deal with (porn, spam, intellectual property etc). Step three: some mechanism is needed to increase co-operation in this area.

OK. But what mechanism? A "multi-stakeholder forum," a "platform," but something that stops short of an "organisation". I think.
David Steven @ 01:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
'Domain Keys' the answer? Yahoo announces a new plan to get rid of spam, where emails will have to prove they've come from a real address. (Thanks to Online Blog).

Aaron Scullion @ 07:29 AM | Comments (4)

December 09, 2003

Amour propre? It's not only journalists who are being treated like chewing gum on the sole of a security guard's jackboot. Lynn St Amour, president of the Internet Society (a body that plays a significant role in deciding the future of the net) was told that she could have 15 minutes of her hour long press conference because the timetable had been reorganised. Half way through her talk she was given throat-slitting signs from the back of the room telling her to stop and make way for the next press conference. Daily Summit spoke to one angry President...

Lynn St Amour is not at all keen on the ITU, who are, of course, the UN agency hosting this summit. "The internet was developed on academic principles of sharing information. The ITU's historical model shows that it doesn't have the same principles," she said. "Governments look towards regulatory methods to overcome problems, but that is not appropriate for the internet."

She is counting her lucky stars that the issue of who governs the internet has been all but dropped from the summit's agenda, although she won't relax until the conference is over.

So much for lofty issues. What can we do about spam? "I receive between 500 and 600 e-mails a day, and 50 per cent of that is spam," she said. "It's something that will always be with us. The forecast is that spam will increase until it comprises 95 per cent of all e-mail. My hope is that filtering agents will continue to get smarter and save us from it, but they will never be able to eradicate spam."
Jack Malvern @ 07:07 PM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2003

ICANN's first strike. The Register reports (scroll to the end) that ICANN is gearing up for the battle at WSIS by unveiling a trendy new site.

Erin Dean @ 12:55 PM | Comments (0)

December 05, 2003

ICANN chair, Vinton "father of the internet" Cerf is defending his organisation's role in The Washington Post: "The bizarre argument that gets made: What ICANN does is Internet governance, and since ICANN doesn't deal with all those other issues, it's not doing its job and let's replace it with the ITU."

Via Lextext.

David Steven @ 05:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
The privacy/security kaleidoscope is being given a shake by the growth of internet telephony, as we reported yesterday. Via John Robb, some interesting thoughts from Skype founder, Niklas Zennstrom:

"The landscape is changing. In the old world you had issues like lawful interception of telephone calls. [But] We cannot do anything because we don't have access to the data stream. The old way of thinking was easy. You'd go to the local telephone company and they'd get a wiretap. That's not a problem because the telephone service owns the infrastructure, provides the service, and operates in one country. The Internet is a bit different."

David Steven @ 08:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 04, 2003

Hold your hats, as Daily Summit gets technical, dipping into the exciting world of ENUM, our attention piqued by a post from Tim Denton, a Canadian lawyer specialising in telecommunications and the internet, and "with a strong concentration on explaining what the technology is and what it means."

Tim is worked up by Canadian reactions to Enum, a system which aims to let users call existing telephone numbers - over the Internet. As I wasn't quite sure what the issues were, I picked up the phone and Tim helped me out...

Making voice calls over the net has long been hyped as the next big thing, but widespread usage now finally seems to be only just over the horizon. Skype, for example, describes itself as "the next phenomenon from the people who brought you KaZaA. Just like KaZaA, Skype uses P2P (peer-to-peer) technology to connect you to other users, not to share files this time, but to talk for free with your friends."

It sounds cool. Free calls over the web - and there's a corresponding amount of hype (rhymes with Skype?). In the words of Associated Press, the service is "tantalizingly telephone-like." But it's only that - telephone-like, not yet as good as the telephone.

The big problem is that you can't yet dial any of the world's vast number of existing telephone numbers over the web. And that's where Enum is supposed to come in.

In a nutshell, the ITU, who are running WSIS, have the task of deciding how telephone numbers will be translated onto the internet, and who will hold and update the vast "look-up tables" needed to make the system work. They then need to persuade a significant number of countries to implement the system and make it work.

Privacy is a big concern. As Tim puts it, "will there be caller-party control or called-party control?" In other words, if a phone number is effectively given a global identity, what will the caller be able to find out about the person they are calling?

With a simple whois search, for example, I can quickly discover a lot about the person behind the Instapundit domain - name, address, phone number, fax numbers, shoe size (joke) etc. Would you want someone to be able to find out all this about you from your phone number?

The other issue is how to mesh together the "systems and culture of telephony" (hierarchical, highly-regulated) with the "systems and culture of the internet" (less hierachical, less-regulated).

Within the Canadian context, Tim believes, government's instinct is "the usual Canadian 'Why are you thinking fifteen minutes ahead of fashion?', or worse, 'Why are you thinking at all, when you could Wait for Orders from the Authorities?'."

It may be hard to slow Enum's momentum down, though. "Those who have had some experience in the domain name game are familiar with how an industry can self-organize, how industry groups are established, how websites are set up, and we are highly aware that we do not need permission from government to think, foresee and act," Tim writes. "Order liberty is the name of this game."

So does this all matter to the ordinary user? Well, not right now, but maybe sooner than you think. Tim predicts "significant Enum usage within 2 years." Early adopters are undoubtedly already licking their lips...
David Steven @ 06:17 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 01, 2003

Internet governance continues to excite us here at Daily Summit (no, really!).

In an Op-Ed for the Toronto Star today, Michael Geist pushes the debate along with the results of a survey he conducted for the ITU on the role of national governments in administering national internet domains (.sc for the Seychelles, for example).

"Contrary to most expectations," he writes, "the study finds virtually every government that responded to the survey either manages, retains direct control, or is contemplating formalizing its relationship with its ccTLD. This is true even for governments, such as the United States, that generally adopt a free-market approach to Internet matters."

47% of governments control their domain, 25% are attempting to assert ultimate authority, 20% are in the process of "formalizing their relationship" with the domain registrar, while only 7% plan to continue with a hands-off role.

Susan Crawford, meanwhile, has been listening in to the deliberations of ICANN's Names Council (sound file here), where Christopher Wilkinson (from the GAC secretariat) tells other participants "it is not helpful to tell the world that ICANN has no regulatory authority. If that's the message from the private sector, then many governments will say that the existing public/private partnership is not enough."

Crawford's take: ICANN knows that someone must be in charge of the various domain registries, but it can only pretend to be a regulator, as it doesn't really have the powers to insist on anything.

"At the moment, no one governs the Internet. ICANN isn't about Internet governance (whatever that means). ICANN worries about registries and number allocation. That's it. If the world wants to make rules about content and identity and intellectual property and cybercrime, the world will have to find another vessel. ICANN cannot bear that burden."

And one last point. Isn't it ironic that ICANN - which can at least lay claim to administering the internet - has one of the most confusing and difficult to navigate websites the world has seen?

Update: KnowProSE says the answer is simple: "An autonomous eGovernment for the Internet which comprises representatives from every country."
David Steven @ 11:13 AM | TrackBack
Private or Public? The idea of putting the internet under UN control continues to be resisted by the United States (more here).

Ambassador David Gross will be leading the US delegation at the summit and, in an interview with, he said "We will continue to fight hard to ensure that the Internet remains a balanced enterprise among all stakeholders - one of these stakeholders is government, but it is one of many stakeholders," adding that "it must be private sector-led. That is very important to us."

Cara Swift @ 09:24 AM | TrackBack

November 26, 2003

In the news, the Washington Times reports that the "UN could restrict content on the internet", in its take on the ongoing battle between supporters of ICANN and those who want a UN-regulated internet.

In the UN corner are a number of big hitters from the developing world, including Brazil, China and India, complaining about US hegemony, and rising levels of junk mail and fraud.

Standing up for ICANN, those who think UN control could threaten the idea of free speech on the Internet. As Diane Cabell of Harvard's Berkman Centre for Internet and Society puts it: "You might get the lowest common denominator instead of the highest common denominator, and before you know it, you're restricted in terms of what content you can put online".

(Link via Lextext.)
David Steven @ 08:06 PM | TrackBack
On the web, KnowProSE (blogging on technology, society, free software, open source and Trinidad and Tobago... and more) is exploring online participation in the summit, while Susan Crawford discusses problems at ICANN (more on ICANN here, here and here).

David Steven @ 02:34 PM | TrackBack

November 25, 2003

Growling Around Internet Governance. From behind-the-scenes exchanges (as well as online reports) it's not hard to predict that internet governance will be one of the most aggravated topics at WSIS. Current arrangements based on ICANN (address: 4676 Admiralty Way, Suite 330, Marina del Rey, CA 90292-6601, U.S.A.) are regarded by many as "a byzantine structure, geared to corporate need".

ICANN defenders say proposals to dismantle or replace it are surrogate attempts by governments or international bodies (such as the ITU, host to the WSIS summit) to gain control over a crucial communications asset. They point to ICANN's own detailed self-reform proposals contained in CEO M.Stuart Flynn's 'Heathrow Declaration'.

But for many the current arrangements are beyond reform. In the words of Hans Klein, Chair of Computer of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, "the question is not what is ICANN going to do, but what is the U.S. Government going to do". Get ready to read the lips of U.S. delegates in Geneva.

Something to watch out for at WSIS - a compromise between the ICANN and Klein positions - is the idea of a public-private partnership, "beyond the shadow of the U.S. Government", based on a multilateral, internationally representative framework and on the consent of the governed.
Andrew Taussig @ 08:40 PM | TrackBack
Who controls the net? The Register, beloved site of techie-types, has a great article covering the arguments over internet governance, closely analysing the "battle lines that are there for all to see" in the summit's key texts, while providing a detailed history of ICANN, the often criticised and much discussed US-based organisation currently in charge of running the Internet's infrastructure. But the author's assertion that WSIS is the "make or break moment" in the long-running "tussle between ICANN and ITU" doesn't do much to encompass the summit's many aims.

Is the internet community so focused on the mechanics of online operation that they're failing to make the important distinction between 'Internet' and 'Information Society'?

Aaron Scullion @ 12:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 17, 2003

In the news, New Zealand civil society is being funded to send a one-person delegation to the summit, while a three day national consultation for the summit has started in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, President Mbeki of South Africa has argued that, with ICANN administering internet domains, "the world continues to be be governed by California law."

"We need to discuss the possibility of putting in place a multilateral mechanism for Internet governance and the summit is a good place to do it," Mbeki told the media yesterday. "it may be the current way it is governed through ICANN is the best way, but this has to be examined."
David Steven @ 08:27 AM

November 16, 2003

Where's the progress? The summit is in trouble, as previously noted. Three more days of talks, designed to sort out gaping disagreements, have dribbled to a close.

By now, we shoud have something to really work with in Geneva - but instead, every time the participants get round a table, more tensions come out.

The draft paper optimistically calls for a "people-centered, inclusive"
information society - something which it wants to get from a hopelessly divided bunch.

There seem to be three main problems:
- Firstly, surprise, surprise, - money. The EU, especially Germany and the UK, and Japan are desperately against even a voluntary fund to pay for ICTs.
- Secondly, freedom of expression and human rights. China have successfully ambushed a complete paragraph on the "free flow of information" - not a good decision for the good of the world's media.
- And finally - Internet governance. China again seems to be causing more trouble than anyone else - it looked like governments would agree on just stating the need for further discussion in the declaration (a bit of a cop-out anyway), but China is blocking progress here, because Taiwan is a member of the ICANN government advisory board.

In addition the Civil Society seems to be generally brassed off with the course things are taking. They also said that terrorism legislation is now clamping down on the freedom of speech - an interesting swipe (especially at the US).

These are pretty complex issues, but Daily Summit is going to unravel them as best we can, over the next couple of posts.
Erin Dean @ 02:35 PM

November 10, 2003

In the news, the FT reports that "an attempt by developing countries to put management of the internet under United Nations auspices is likely to be shelved" - at least for now.

Developing countries are unhappy with the way internet registrar, Icann, operates, but the US and EU are defending what they believe is a successful model "based on minimal regulation and commercial principles."

UN officials believe this issue will not be solved until WSIS part 2 - in Tunis in 2005.

Update: More on Icann at Icann Focus.
David Steven @ 09:35 AM | TrackBack

October 31, 2003

The Christian Scientist is calling on the US to "defend the net from the UN."

In an editorial, it argues that countries such as China and Cuba may use WSIS to impose government control on the internet.

"Some governments seek to use national security as an excuse to control Internet freedoms," the paper writes. "Already, Cuba has tried to include language that would approve government filtering and censorship of private media.

The US delegation must ensure in preconference drafting that the final document defends basic freedoms for Internet users."

Meanwhile, a debate is raging within the US about how seriously to take the summit. The State Department's leading telecom official has told industry representatives that decisions have not been made on who will lead the delegation or what position will be taken on key issues.

The private sector seems worried:

"Some private-sector parties at Wednesday's State Department meeting questioned how U.S. interests will be furthered at the meeting, with one industry representative voicing concern about whether developing countries might unite on telecom-information technology policy principles at odds with the Bush administration, potentially repeating the dynamic that doomed September global trade talks in Cancun, Mexico.".
David Steven @ 11:18 AM | TrackBack

October 25, 2003

Brussels = Washington? EU officials will have their work cut out if they want to use the conference to undermine the USA's dominance of the internet..

Aaron Scullion @ 11:03 AM | TrackBack
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