A Practical Navigator for the Internet Economy

Clinton Administration Embraces DNS Tar Baby, Magaziner & OMB Responsible -- Action Derails Agreement with Network Solutions & NSF to End Co-operative Agreement on April 1 1997

Ill Considered Move Halts Formation of ARIN IP Registry Critics Say Action Deprives IANA of Opportunity for Legal Foundation of Authority & Endangers Stability of the Internet by Putting IP Numbers at Risk, pp. 1- 5

Thanks to the meddling of hopefully well meaning folk - Ira Magaziner's Internet task force at the White House, and an inter agency task force centered at OMB, we are faced with a potentially dangerous situation for the Internet. It is no secret how badly the Domain Name System is about to become fouled up after a year and a half of squabbling among competing bodies. But what is not broadly understood is that NSI runs the IP registry for the Western hemisphere and feeds content to the "." dot servers for the world that are located at NSI but owned by IANA. These are functions that there is no longer any legitimate reason for the US government to be involved with. But they are also so critical to the operation of the Internet that they must be moved very promptly to a separate and neutral body independent of NSI and one unable to be dragged "under" by the waves litigation now threatening everyone involved with Domain Name System.

After talking with numerous sources familiar with the events of the last two months, we are convinced that policy coming from the White House has, inadvertently, put a stop to plans that had moved far enough along so that the above removal of ARIN's functions from NSI could have happened in a way that would benefit the world wide Internet community. Fall out from this action has meant a halt in plans under way that would have - very shortly - resulted in the establishment of an independent American Registry for Internet Numbers. The establishment of ARIN also means that for the first time the operations of the IANA could become institutionalized and gain a sounder international foundation

Putting a hold on the establishment of ARIN renders the authority of IANA more liable to court challenge and leaves the payroll, database, and control of the IP number registry process in the hands of a commercial company (NSI) that does the original .com and other global top level domain name registry for the entire internet world wide. As someone closely involved with ARIN told us: "The real danger is that numbers are being subsidized by domain names, and domain names are about to become a disaster."

While NSI has shown no signs that it cannot or should not be trusted, it is improbable that NSF oversight of NSI will extend beyond the current agreement whereas the need for NSI as a stabilized registry operation in an impending sea of change in the Domain Name arena will continue.

Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that NSI will sooner or later be granted full independence from NSF oversight . When this happens leaving the power inherent in both the DNS and the ARIN functions in the hands of a single corporation would be unwise. Also, while one hopes the chances are small that anything serious will happen to the viability of Network Solutions, it's DNS database performance during the last half of March has been horrendous with major names that had already paid being removed from the root servers for non payment - something that has led to disruption of service for many entities involved. In the litigious atmosphere that surrounds this whole environment, Network Solutions will surely be a target.

In an exclusive interview on March 27 with Don Telage, President of NSI we were able to establish, with some degree of precision, that at the end of February, the National Science Foundation and Network Solutions had reached an agreement in principal to bring the NSF/NSI cooperative agreement to a conclusion a year early on April 1, 1997 and to establish and fund during a transition period the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) which would have been freed from NSI control on April 1, 1997. Unfortunately, the administration move to find a fix for DNS (discussed later in our full article) caused all forward movement between NSI and NSF to cease on Monday March 3. Since then the situation has become much more difficult and the freeing of ARIN as part of a package deal that was acceptable to both sides at the beginning of March looks far less acceptable to to NSI now as a stand alone option. [Editor's note: we have here confirmation of the damage that the administration's ill advised meddling has done. We and, we hope the entire internet, will be watching closely to see what they do to fix the mess they have created.]

ARIN will temporarily cover Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. The ARIN organizers are working with both areas to help them set up their own regional registries. Then, under the auspices of IANA would be five registries, AfriNIC, ALyCNIC, APNIC, ARIN, and RIPE. Leaving IP registration for the western hemisphere and sub-Saharan Africa indefinitely under the aegis of NSI under the current stressful conditions does not make sense. If anything disastrous happened to impact the viability of NSI, IP registration and dot operation could be set up elsewhere within 48 to 72 hours - if the people and hardware were available. But during such a transition there would likely be substantial disruption of Internet service worldwide. Also, during such a move, assignment of new numbers would not take place and that process would take longer to get back to normal.

In a conversation with a White House source on March 25 we found out the Administration has decided that the Federal government needs to study the DNS and solve a problem for the Internet community that it has been otherwise unable to solve for itself. Unfortunately it appears that Magaziner's group has been listening to the positions that Tony Rutkowski and the corporate lawyers of the Internet Law and Policy Forum have been promoting both on the network and off line. The source maintains that the inter-agency task force is unaware that in grabbing the DNS tar baby it also has grabbed and derailed - for the time being - ARIN.

In derailing ARIN the group is undertaking actions that pose some risk to the stable operation of the internet world wide. That stability can be ensured only by the resumption of swift action to resume the establishment of ARIN and, in the face of a likely onslaught of DNS related lawsuits, and to create a Global Council of IP Registries, to internationalize the IANA, with members taken initially from the three regional registries; European (Ripe), the American (ARIN) and the Asian (APNIC) IP registries; and other regional registries added as they develop.

Background Data Relevant to DNS ARIN Controversy pp. 6-11

We publish several pieces relevant to the cover article. First is the portion of the Ira Magaziner CNet interview on network governance. Included is our commentary on the man's muddled views. Next is a summary of some of the problems of the NSI databases over the past two weeks with a report from George Herbert on NSI's answers to his questions about what went wrong. There follows debate between Tony Rutkoskwi, Dave Crocker, and Michael Dillon on IAHC. Next is information about the IO Design lawsuit and finally our early March editorial on the NSF IG's attempts to make Internet policy for the NSF.

John Curran on FCC and ISPs, p. 12 - 15

In an interview John gives the best analysis that we have seen of the problems behind Bell Atlantic's and Pac Bell's requests to have the FCC lift the local access charge exemption from ISPs, an action that could increase more than tenfold what an ISP has to pay each month for dial in lines. John concludes that such action would be likely to kill the dial up IP industry. He suggests that the FCC should be paying close attention to the infrastructure that ISPs are using to remove their traffic from the PSTN. He also points out that the focus of the RBOC complaints on ISPs ignores the vast use of corporate dial in modem pools that stress the PSTN during the day rather than in the evening off peak hours where dial in ISP use is focused.

Interviews Assess SprintLink pp. 16 - 22, 24

We interview Brad Hokamp Benham Malcom, and Hank Kilmer to assess the position of Sprintlink in the wake of substantial reorganization over the past year. We are encouraged to hear that Sprint has no plans to discontinue flat rate pricing on leased lines as three of the four other largest providers have done. (MCI is making the change. BBN and UUNET instituted tiered pricing quite some time ago.)

Kilmer explains in considerable detail the new operational management structure underlying SprintLink and Sprint's other IP services including desirable new changes made as recently as this February. He also explains Sprintlink's current thinking on Quality of service technologies and the use of ATM in the SprintLink backbone which currently is POS directly over SONET. ATM will not be incorporated until some of the performance issues are improved.

Letter to the Editor

March 31: Editor's Note: We received the following communication this morning from Al Gidari on behalf of the ILPF in reference to the remarks we made in our May 1997 cover article about apparent endorsement by ILPF of what has been going on with government involvement in DNS.

"Tony, like every other lawyer involved in ILPF, has the right to discuss any issue they please. To my knowledge, Tony has never represented to anyone that on this or any other subject he speaks for ILPF. That is because he does not. The ILPF has not taken an position on any issue yet. We can't because we have not completed study on any issue and have not presented anything to the membership at large to consider. We are still finding out what works best and 1997 should prove to be a good year for testing process. On the Domain issue, we will neither refute nor support Tony because we have no opinion, not having been asked by anyone to study testing process. On the Domain issue, we will neither refute nor support Tony because we have no opinion, not having been asked by anyone to study the problem and not having raised it within the membership as one we needed to act on immediately if at all. We do not know whether lawyers who understand the Net and the issue would help or not in the process. Many such as Tony might have an opinion in that regard but the ILPF has not taken a stand on it, and has no obligation to do so, and will not do so simply because you bait it in your article. Now, you can choose to print the truth or not, but you have been given a straight answer. You put the burden on the wrong party Gordon. . . . . Had you called me or e mailed me you would have gotten the above answer. Please feel free to do so in the future and I will be sure you get the straight information. If Tony or Ira or any other party thinks theprocess being developed by ILPF can help in this issue, then the members would decide whether to be involved. No one has asked and ILPF has no opinion in the absence of a request, member approval, a process being invoked that included public review and a final recommendation/position being approved by consensus of the members."

Al Gidari

The Editor thanks Mr. Gidari for setting the record straight. Given time constraints we found there to be a limit to the number of people and issues that we could cross check. We have strong opinions, but those opinions include putting all authoritative information that we receive on the "table" in public view. This statement from Al Gidari certainly seems to qualify and to be worth sharing.