A Practical Navigator for the Internet Economy


We examine the landscape in the aftermath of the Green Paper and find that a proliferation of power blocs are jockeying to impose win/lose scenarios on the outcome of the restructuring of DNS and IANA. We offer a short history of the conflicts over the past two years in an effort to show the origin and development of the win/lose downward spiral.

Too many of the players, including POC and CORE, see the DNS situation as one where they win by atttacking NSI. "Dot" gov has been turned over to the United States General Services Administration and Educom has proposed to take over .edu". "Dot" com of course is what everyone sees as the prize. The Green Paper proposes that NSI must open a front office (registrar) operation and separate that from its back office (registry) function.

The Green Paper also proposes that NSI must "give the U.S. government a copy and documentation of all the data, software, and appropriate licenses to other intellectual property generated under the cooperative agreement, for use by the new corporation for the benefit of the Internet." Material covered under this phrasing certainly includes the database contents for .com which was described for us by one observer as "the mother lode of all Internet strategic databases."

"It contains for two million registrants the contact info (name, phone address and email) on up to three people for each name. (Technical, admin and billing). That alone would give possessor the name of almost every sysadmin in the US (or maybe the world if you combined it with other DNS databases from CORE for example) as well as the "owner" of every Internet associated business. Doing a "whois" search by name would raise considerable privacy issues. That's why the POC/CORE idea of aggregating it with all, other TLD data in one central database is so frightening. Not to mention that the revenue value of being able to e-spam or telephone solicit that community is enormous." The Green Paper speaks, without, we think, having thought through the consequences of using this material "for the benefit of the Internet."

While the Green Paper leans toward approving profit making registries, it also mentions the existence of a strong strain of opinion favoring non profit registries. We have found out a good deal about those on this side of the equation. Among them is, not surprisingly, ISOC. Don Heath confirmed in email to us on 3/6/98: "We advocate a public trust - non profit model for registries." Educom is of the same general persuasion, having submitted a response to the Green Paper, the salient points of which Mike Roberts outlines for us in a side bar. The Educom and (presumably ISOC) proposals would bar for profit registries by banning private ownership of domain names which are regarded as belonging to "a public space which requires public interest stewardship on behalf of all users of the Internet."

Registrants would pay for a license to use the name just as we are now having to pay for a license to use spectrum which the ITU holds "in the public trust." Tony Rutkowski points out that any language calling DNS a public resource, as does the ISOC signed MoU, assures ITU involvement forever, since their treaty charter assigns them a permanent role where such resources are involved." See for example Article 12, paragraph 3 of the ITU constitution "In the exercise of their Board duties, the members of the Radio Regulations Board shall serve, not as representing their respective Member States nor a region, but as custodians of an international public trust. <http://www.wia.org/pub/itu-constitution.html> See also <http://www.wia.org/dns-law/pub/ITU_Telecom_Regs.htm> Rutkowski adds: "What keeps the Internet outside the grips of these provisions is Art. 9 dealing with "specialized" networks and systems that are not in the same category as those "generally available to the public." The same critical boundary is also found in other major instruments such as the WTO GATS Telecom provisions and the national laws in many countries and regions like Europe." Given that ITU Secretary General Tarjanne has openly declared the ITU's Interest in becoming the governing body of the Internet, we can only wonder about the impact of the ISOC and Educom phrasing.

Furthermore the concept of the Registry owning the names, and only renting their use to registrants is exactly how the International Telephone Number System works to give the PTTs control of phone system customers, where one cannot get any kind of dialtone without first renting a number "From The Phone Company," which owns your number and can change it as dictated by the "Needs Of The Phone System." Unlike spectrum, to which it is sometimes comapared, the DNS name space is essentially infinite.

We continue to find references to IBM and AT&T, first in databse construction for CORE and more recently in running a non profit .com database. If doing so would give these giants access to NSI's .com database, we can understand why they would be eager to step up and perform such a "service" for the Internet community. As we have documented in previous issues, under the stewardship of Brian Kahin and Becky Burr, these two companies seem to have become the leading lights of the InterAgency Working Group's industrial policy.

Educom's call for non profit and education representation on the IANA Board reminds us of Ira Magaziner's statements in his interview with us that, the non profit, education and trademark sectors pushed heavily for what became, at the last moment, seven user group representatives on the policy board. Unfortunately, this changes totally the nature of the IANA Board from a source of technical policy for Internet names and numbers to a general Internet governing council and puts a top down imprint where it most certainly does not belong.

We have here a series of circus rings with 'elephants" jostling each other in win/lose struggles. In the central DNS ring is NSI backed by SAIC and defended in a current lawsuit by no less than Lloyd Cutler, the biggest legal pistol in DC. Standing somewhere in the shadows against NSI, either is or has been IBM and AT&T, their entrance facilitated by Kahin and Burr. Also trying to gain a foothold is the the Open Root Server Coalition. See www.open- rsc.org. ORSC is playing a non-zero-sum game in the hopes of attracting enough participants from the Internet commnity to turn the tide from zero-sum to non-zero-sum politics.

IAHC sought a win/lose solution and began our current sad downward spiral. Rather than lose IAHC's opponents called in US government, which has handed them a victory making IAHC/POC/CORE a current loser. Rather than accept their loss POC/CORE calls on the EC and EU to fight the US. The result is that, in another ring, the Europeans lead by Bangeman are trumpeting accusations against the Americans. These are not the only "rings." In a third we have the US Congress, in a fourth Asia, and in the fifth the US Judiciary.

The IANA Transition Advisory Group (ITAG) is in a sixth ring. This group (Randy Bush, Geoff Huston, Brian Carpenter, John Klensin, Steve Wolff and Dave Farber) is composed primarily of long time close associates of Jon Postel. ITAG is appears to be set up to perform the detailed design of the new IANA corporation. Drafting the articles of Incorporation and the By-Laws is something that has to be well underway right now for there to be a chance for Magaziner's timeline to work. Unfortunately, the pattern being followed is very similar to Jon's appointment of IAHC. ITAG is a closed, top down, appointed group working to revamp the most critical aspects of the Internet. We have seen no sign that, apart from getting initial clearance through Magaziner, the ITAG will do other than present its redesign to the world as a fait accompli. IAHC was the previous such win/lose solution concocted by Jon as IANA.

It is becoming clear that the new IANA will have broader powers than the old. ITAG may be the most important "working group" in the history of the net. It is a shame to see that it has not adopted the IETF tradition of openness and is working instead behind closed doors. What will be done to ascertain if the result has any consensus behind it? When ITAG is finished, will it present its draft anywhere before sending it to Magaziner? Now that rule making is underway contacts with government must be done in the open. ITAG as a private sector group falls outside these constraints. Any corporation wishing to affect the outcome at this moment has to be thinking about whether an approach to ITAG could be fruitful. This approach is hardly fair to the groups that are working in the open to develop broad consensus for a solution to the DNS problem. One such is the Open Root Server Confederation. We recommend a look at their work in progress at <www.open- rsc.org>.

Ira Magaziner - as Ring master - is trying to be an honest broker of what is best for the Internet and is taking an internationalist stance that ironically the European's miss as being US centric. The Internet community - no longer cohesive - is heavily fragmented. Fighting amongst itself, it risks surrendering the field to the ITU and the old line phone companies - players which will remake the Internet top down while deftly handing out higher prices, less innovation and less freedom for end users.

We owe our entire focus on the unfortunate aspects of the zero- sum (my win muct be your loss) behavior chronicled in our survey of the current mess to discussions with Einar Stefferud who with this problem in mind has been helping to nurture the Open Root Server Confederation. While Vint Cerf disagrees with some of what we have written, he joins Stef in commenting for the record: "the zero sum mentality is a useful analogy to explain some of the extremal behaviour of various parties. "For me to win, you must lose" - a poor match to the burgeoning value of the Internet and its potential for growing opportunities for many parties."

Our Feb 23 Interview with Ira Magaziner pp. 1, 8 -15

The interview explores in depth the schedule for and steps to be taken in setting up the new IANA corporation. It puts on record the thinking behind the user members and Magaziner's reaction to the problems that they may cause. It shows the current state of his thinking in a detail not elsewhere available. He describes with candor the methodology of his approach. Those who don't take the time to look at and try to understand what he reveals here about his decision making process and the direction in which he intends to push events should not complain if, having opted out of the process, they are later unhappy with the outcome.

Analysis of Magaziner's Position, pp. 16 - 18

Ira Magaziner understands very well that the crux of the current problems are not just DNS but the entire range of IANA authority. We are worried that what Ira is doing faces several contradictions. He is working with an arbitrary but significant deadline of September 30 because, at that time, two things happen. First, the final six month ramp down of the NSF NSI Cooperative Agreement ends and with it the US government's authority over NSI's operation. Second, federal funds to pay for the IANA function end and, with that ending, the government's claim of authority over the IANA, if not ended, is sharply diminished.

In this context Ira wants to make sure that NSI shares registrations into the .com database. He also wants to have a new IANA authority in place with an international buy-in to a privatized policy board that will establish policies over the issuance of new top level domains and establish a new internationally agreed upon means of operating a single set of beefed up root-servers. A tall order in eight months under any circumstances - one that is made even more difficult by two years of zero sum struggles.

All of this operates in a context where, in the year since the U.S. government's involvement began, the importance of the Internet to the entire range of telecommunications has been growing and where many large corporations - motivated by a newfound awareness of the impact of the Internet on their future viability - are now quite eager to meddle in the process to protect their own self-interest. As a result, Magaziner is on the tightrope because he has little time to get a group of powerful forces with conflicting interests to act on behalf of a mutually agreed upon common good. His need to find consensus among such a diverse range of interests could mean that he either runs out of time or agrees to a structure that will be unworkable.

QoS & Tag Switching, pp. 19 - 22

Paul Ferguson describes Quality of Service as neither network uptime nor the application of RSVP on a VPN but rather a complex series of engineering tasks which range from traffic management to capacity planning and may include every thing from differentiated services to tag switching. In a second interview Yakov Rekhter describes tag switching which is expected to provide traffic engineering capabilities comparable to what ATM provides today, but without requiring ATM. It will be released by years's end.

Internet in Japan pp. 23 - 25

In a Tokyo interview Hiroshi Fujiwara, CEO of the Internet Institute describes how his Institute is set up to provide technology transfer to emerging providers of new internet infrastructure in Japan. He also describes NTT's approach to the Internet market place and the interest of the Japanese consumer electronics industry in IPv6.

Rutkowski on Internet Meta Developments, pp. 26 - 27

Tony describes how technology issues lie along various layers of the protocol stack while issue of content slice vertically through them. He sees IP as merely "glue" holding the "layers together while the important thing is what is happening above and below it. " He likes the Association for Interactive Media which he sees as a fascinating development representing the interests of a broad array of new Internet constituents. 'They represent new small entreprenuers who are affected by these developments in Washington but have no voice in the process."

Technical Issues from Inet-access, pp. 27 - 30, 32

Avi Freedman and Sean Doran discuss stat-muxing as a means of more efficient use of the LEC network. A second discussion looks at whether network AS numbers may become directly used in such a way as to be certain that the AS number is tied to the correct set of prefixes. A third discussion between Sean and Lex Luthor focuses on the possibilities opened by tag switching and other layer 3 switching solutions.