A Practical Navigator for the Internet Economy

ARIN Approved! Magaziner Breaks Log Jam

Administration Makes Ninth Inning Move Helpful to Net -- Signs of Leadership Emerge from Sea of Hesitation

Government Wide NOI on DNS Expected Shortly -- PGP Media Case Moving Forward -- We Chronicle Weeks of Indecision and Fumbling -- Past Errors in Dealing with Internet Governance Must Not Again Be Repeated -- pp. 1-10

In an eleventh hour decision last week the Clinton Administration dropped its opposition to an American Registry for Internet Numbers. Ira Magaziner finally grasped what was at stake and, to his credit, acted forcefully to end foot dragging by other agencies. We applaud these events. For the approval for NSF to set up ARIN actually takes the first important and coherent step towards the Administration's announced goal of industry driven self- regulation.

Nevertheless, the road to last week's decision was marked by an remarkable amount of bungling and lack of both coordination and leadership among federal agencies that, in the feelings of some, were more interested in protecting their turf and in not making "wrong" decisions than in really trying to understand the key reasons behind the crisis in Internet governance. Several issues compounded the problem. First, OMB, because of its role in coordinating implementation of the Federal Administrative Procedures Act, took a major role in deciding what should be done. Unfortunately the players at OMB had no understanding of the complicated historical, political and legal linkages that they were dealing with when, having been called on to fix Domain Name Service, they decided also to meddle in IP numbers.

Second, while the policy makers felt there were issues of control over business critical elements of DNS as well as uncertainties about the role of the ITU and viability of the IAHC process, the Inter Agency Task Force set up to deal with the issue had no leadership worthy of the name. Many of the stake holders had no grasp of the technical complexity and legal linkages between what undoubtedly first appeared to them as nothing more complicated than intellectual property aspects of obtaining business addresses in Cyberspace. One person directly involved expressed dismay to us at the enormous gulf he saw between the concerns of the network engineers and the non technical policy wonks - something that he simply did not understand but intuited to be serious.

Finally, in such a context, the only way to avoid disaster, was for those interested to lobby the top policy makers such as Magaziner and do whatever it took to educate them. We report with considerable relief that this seems to be what was finally accomplished last week. What we have seen however is only Act One. There is still much that remains to be decided about DNS policy. Some court cases are underway that will likely force rapid decisions. Some are also asserting that the "old boys network" of Internet governance is dead and that the commercial Internet industry must now throw out the consensual processes that have been the foundation of the Internet's growth and prosperity. These people we have little respect for. Therefore, in order to spread awareness of what has happened, we present a detailed summary of the behind the scenes maneuvering of the past two months.

In April ARIN was back on track and headed for a September 1 opening, when, suddenly at the beginning of May, we received word that ARIN was once again on hold. Why? Because OMB had decided to fix the problems of IP. The only problem was that the underlying problems, which are technical, are not administratively "fixable", and the people sitting around the Inter Agency DNS Task Force table either didn't know it or would not admit it. After sending scathing private mail to an administration official, we received a reply on May 11 that told us worlds about the problem. "As far as I know -- the only outstanding objection to ARIN is whether they are dealing with number portability.? Certainly -- number portability is critical in the telephony context to promoting competition - so people are asking -- why not portability for Internet? If you have any recommendations for people on the technical side - I'd appreciate it."

We passed this data along to the appropriate technical leadership of the net, went to Russia and waited for more news. When it came it was that a succession of technical folk had done the educating called for but that amazingly ARIN had been thrown a new curve. The feds were now insisting it be announced in the Federal Registry before it was formed. We were told that this new delay would kill ARIN, and that worse, it was doing nothing to solve the authority problems of the IANA.

On June 2 Ken Cukier published an extremely important article in Communications Week International. It detailed the Dublin meeting of RIPE the European Registry that had occurred a few days earlier. There it was announced that both RIPE and APNIC had made monetary contributions to take up the slack in IANA funding in view of ARPA's non renewal of the contract with ISI that had paid for many of Jon Postel's functions. For the more knowledgeable here was a clear implication that, if the US government didn't do something to stabilize IANA's problems, Postel could simply move this critical piece of Internet governance outside of the US. We sent the article to our electronic subscribers as an "extra" and later heard that the contents had found their way to the June 3rd meeting of the Interagency DNS Task Force where they had had a significant impact in raising the level of consciousness of what was at stake.

In the meantime, on the way home, a visit to London (June 9 -13) enabled us to discuss matters with Tony Rutkowski, some key US regulators, and the CIX President and Executive Director. These meetings gave us a more balanced view of the position of the "other side". The CIX in particular indicated a feeling that ARIN was not urgent and that it was time for commercial providers working through a US Government "process" to reshape the way the net was run. Discussion with others after our return from Russia and London has left us viewing the CIX position with considerable dismay.

With ARIN on hold, needed fundamental changes in IP policy could not be made. But with dues of $1000 a year, we'd estimate that 4 out of every 5 ISPs in the ARIN service area could afford to join. Since the member ISPs will elect the ARIN Policy Council, it seems to us that on sheer numbers alone, ARIN can be an effective mechanism against unwarranted industry consolidation.

We have had serious doubts about the Clinton Administration's Internet policy. In this instance the Administration did the "right thing." We hope that it will continue to do so on heels of challenges that will follow.

USIPA Lawyer Fails to Understand Needs of ISPs, pp. 11 - 13

On April 28, in some critical discussions on the NAIPR mail list, USIPA lawyer Rudolph Geist painted ARIN as device hatched by a monopoly in order to become another monopoly and perpetuate the interests of Network Solutions and the big service providers. To the response of Philip Nesser "I don't believe that the process should be completely open to the public (the finances yes, but not technical applications) because the information requested may be considered proprietary by many organizations;" Geist replied: "It is highly suspicious to maintain that technical information (or any information for that matter) regarding the allocation of IP address blocks, a finite public resource (like telephone numbers or radio spectrum), should be held proprietary by a monopoly outgrowth (ARIN) of another monopoly (Internic)." It developed that at least in one instance his way of trying to get an address block for his clients was by threatening to sue InterNic or force it to break the procedures set forth in RFC 2050. We believe that neither Mr. Geist nor his organization deserves respect.

Seven New gTLDs Make No Business Sense, p. 14

A short cogent critique of the IAHC's seven new gLTDs by Vanderbilt Professor Donna Hoffman.

UUNET and Sprint Charging for Peering, pp. 15 - 23

At the very end of April, in an explosion that rocked the Well and its ISP Whole Earth Networks (WeNet), David Holub, WeNet's founder refused an order from Well owner Bruce Katz to capitulate to UUNET's demand for paid peering. Holub was fired for taking what we view as a courageous stand against UUNET's insidious policy (since chnaged) of insisting that anyone who wished to even talk about remaining a UUNET peer would have to sign a non disclosure agreement that would presumably keep the fact that paid peering was under discussion and the price paid for peering a secret. UUNET actually had bought about three months of silence with this policy before Holub's courageous action blew the whistle.

In the meantime, Sprint began a policy by which its peers would have to pay in declining amounts, according to the number of exchange points where they conducted peering. Sprint's prices represent an average cost increase of $200,000 a year for each peer. If we look at the big five privately interconnected providers, we can see that, should all of them start doing what Sprint and UUNET have done, the average increase in operating expenses for peering would be a million dollars a year per backbone. While Sprint and UUNET offered technical justifications for their charges, the cost benefit assessment of who should settle with whom in a connectionless network is still no more clear than it has been in the many many discussions of these kinds of issues that have cropped up on NANOG and elsewhere over the last couple of years.

What does seem obvious is that there may be strong anti-competitive elements that are lurking in these new policies. Roughly two years ago the big five established criteria for free peering. Since then between 15 and 20 national high speed backbones have appeared that meet the criteria - far more than many ever imagined possible. Now that this has happened, at least some of the big five are changing the rules in such a way as to put a financial squeeze on their own would-be competitors. We present our own analysis of these events and a summary of mail list discussion from early May through mid June.

Holub's Model of Open Peering Open Interconnect Internet, pp. 24 - 26

David Holub went to the California PUC and managed to have WeNet declared a common carrier. In a NANOG discussion with comments by Kent England, he presents his strategy for open peering.

Choosing an Upstream Provider and the Cost Equation for Dial Up Service, pp. 27-29, 48

On inet-access Sean Donelan provides valuable advice on the variable to consider when shopping for backbone service. Also welcome news is ANS's recent serious entry into providing backbone service for ISPs. In a second discussion, several ISPs respond to Avi Freedman's query on the costs of providing their dial up service.

NSF Inspector General's Defunct Plan to Tax Domain Names, pp. 30 -35

This absurd plan was officially rejected on April 17. We publish our analysis of it and the plan itself in full as a monument to the kind of thinking that real policy makers should in future avoid.

State of Russian Internet, p. 36

Brief reflections on internet developments in Russia.

Book Reviews, pp. 37 - 40

Reviews of recent O'Reilly books on Java and the Web by Russian programmers in St Petersburg.

AGIS - Watching the Self Destruction of a Network Pariah, p. 40

During the past three months AGIS seems to have gone steadily downhill. It has become the major haven for leased line connections for spam houses like Cyber Promotions. This has gotten it cut off from portions of the net and retaliated at in turn by anti-spam forces. AGIS has tried the gambit of forming an industry group for responsible use of spam by giving people a chance to opt out. Reports come back however that as soon as an address goes on a "remove" list, that address gets more spam. AGIS' unique route announcements are reported to have shrunk to one per cent of the Internet's total at Mae East. Some ISP consultants have advised their clients connected to AGIS to leave.

K - 12 Technology Debate, pp. 41 - 46

Part 2 of a debate between Ferdi Serim and Jeff Michka. Part 1 appeared in the Feb 97 COOK Report.