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Should America Give Up Control of the Internet?

 
 
Reply Thu 20 Oct, 2005 10:40 am
I have just finished a couple of articles about America's supposed neocolonial monopoly over internet control. The following article is from the Nov/Dec Issue of Foreign Affairs magazine published by the Council on Foreign Affairs a New York City think tank. They do have a web site but unless you subscribe you may not be able to read the whole article therefore I have downloaded and copied it so that we might discuss on this forum. Any search should include the title "WHO WILL CONTROL THE INTERNET" and the author's name: KENNETH NEIL CUKIER. This may seem a trivial matter but do we really want the United Nations involved in the World Wide Web's administration? Given the UN's power of sanctions what would this have meant if the UN had decided it wanted to punish the U.S. for its invasion of Iraq? How about free speech issues? The questions are myriad.

The Article:


Quote:
WASHINGTON BATTLES THE WORLD
As historic documents go, the statement issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce on June 30 was low-key even by American standards of informality. No flowery language, no fountain-penned signatures, no Great Seal of the United States -- only 331 words on a single page. But the simplicity of the presentation belied the importance of the content, which was Washington's attempt to settle a crucial problem of twenty-first-century global governance: Who controls the Internet?
Any network requires some centralized control in order to function. The global phone system, for example, is administered by the world's oldest international treaty organization, the International Telecommunication Union, founded in 1865 and now a part of the UN family. The Internet is different. It is coordinated by a private-sector nonprofit organization called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which was set up by the United States in 1998 to take over the activities performed for 30 years, amazingly, by a single ponytailed professor in California.
The controversy over who controls the Internet has simmered in insular technology-policy circles for years and more recently has crept into formal diplomatic talks. Many governments feel that, like the phone network, the Internet should be administered under a multilateral treaty. ICANN, in their view, is an instrument of American hegemony over cyberspace: its private-sector approach favors the United States, Washington retains oversight authority, and its Governmental Advisory Committee, composed of delegates from other nations, has no real powers.
This discontent finally boiled over at the UN's World Summit on the Information Society, the first phase of which was held in Geneva in December 2003 (the second phase is set for November in Tunis). Brazil and South Africa have criticized the current arrangement, and China has called for the creation of a new international treaty organization. France wants an intergovernmental approach, but one involving only an elite group of democratic nations. Cuba and Syria have taken advantage of the controversy to poke a finger in Washington's eye, and even Zimbabwe's tyrant, Robert Mugabe, has weighed in, calling the existing system of Internet governance a form of neocolonialism.
How did such a welcomed technology become the source of such discord? Everyone understands that the Internet is crucial for the functioning of modern economies, societies, and even governments, and everyone has an interest in seeing that it is secure and reliable. But at the same time, many governments are bothered that such a vital resource exists outside their control and, even worse, that it is under the thumb of an already dominant United States. Washington's answer to these concerns -- the Commerce Department's four terse paragraphs, released at the end of June, announcing that the United States plans to retain control of the Internet indefinitely -- was intended as a sort of Monroe Doctrine for our times. It was received abroad with just the anger one would expect, setting the stage for further controversy.
MASTERS OF THEIR DOMAIN NAMES
One of the most cherished myths of cyberspace is that the Internet is totally decentralized and inherently uncontrollable. Like all myths, this one is based on a bit of truth and a heavy dose of wishful thinking. It is true that compared with the century-old telephone system, the Internet is a paragon of deregulation and decentralization. In four critical areas, however, it requires oversight and coordination in order to operate smoothly. Together, these areas constitute the "domain name system" of addresses, with which users navigate the Internet and send e-mail.
First, there are domain names, such as www.foreignaffairs.org. Somebody must decide who will operate the database of generic names ending with suffixes such as ".com," ".net," ".info," and others (a privilege that promises handsome profits). Also, someone must appoint the operators of two-letter country-code suffixes (such as ".cn," for China).

Second, there are Internet Protocol numbers, the up-to-12-digit codes, invisible to users, that every machine on the network needs to have in order to be recognized by other machines. Due to a technical decision made when the network was developing in the late 1970s -- in a world speckled with mainframe computers -- the system was set up to accommodate only around four billion potential Internet Protocol numbers, far fewer than are now necessary. Until the Internet is upgraded, accordingly, Internet Protocol numbers must be allocated sparingly -- and carefully, since accidentally duplicating them creates mayhem for routing Internet traffic.
Third are what are called root servers. Some form of control is needed in the actual machines that make the domain name system work. When users visit Web sites or send e-mail, big computers known as root servers match the domain names with their corresponding Internet Protocol numbers in a matter of milliseconds. The database is the world's most important Rolodex. Yet due to a technical hiccup that occurred when the network was young, there can be only 13 root servers, some of which provide data to mirror sites around the world. As a result, somebody must decide who will operate the root servers and where those operators will be based. Because the system evolved informally, the root servers' administrators are diverse, including NASA, a Dutch nonprofit organization, universities, the U.S. military, and private companies. Today, all told, ten root servers are operated from the United States and one each from Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Tokyo.
Fourth and finally, there are technical standards that must be formally established and coordinated to ensure the Internet's interoperability. They entail more than just the addressing system and involve everything from how routers send traffic to parameters so that video flows smoothly. Ultimately, the standards let the Internet evolve.
If all this sounds outrageously technical, that is because it is. And it is the reason why, even after the Internet had become a mass-market medium, most diplomats and foreign policy experts remained largely unaware of these issues. But although the management of the names, numbers, root servers, and standards that constitute the Internet's infrastructure -- what techies call "Internet governance" -- seems nerdy, it can have an important impact on mainstream policy issues. For instance, countries that place restrictions on the types of domain names that can be used effectively hamper free speech. The personal information of registrants of addresses with generic suffixes such as ".com" and ".net" are made publicly available online, which jeopardizes people's privacy. Telecom operators need access to Internet Protocol numbers to deploy services, making them a major asset for companies and an economic interest of countries. Technical standards can be designed either to foster openness or to permit censorship and surveillance. In short, the Internet, before it is physically constructed from routers and cables, is made up of values. And the domain name system is the central chokepoint where control of the Internet can be exercised.
For most of its history, the Internet has been administered by Woodstock-era American engineers and academics. As a result, the network has embodied the philosophy of that community: a political and economic liberalism led to openness on a technical level. The open infrastructure (with nonproprietary standards that let any network connect to any other, hence the "inter-net") has fostered free expression, low-cost access, and innovation. Its private-sector origins (despite initial federal funding) have made the Internet nonbureaucratic, particularly compared with state-run monopoly telecom carriers. And the fact that the Internet's networks carry streams of data rather than mainly voice calls has kept it outside of the purview of traditional telecom regulators.
To be sure, the Internet's openness begets big headaches: it is difficult to track spammers, and the system is tremendously vulnerable to hacking. But the open network is like the open society -- crime thrives, but so does creativity. We take for granted that the Internet we enjoy today will continue to have these characteristics, but this is hardly certain. It all depends on who controls the domain name system and what priorities they choose to set.
THE TANGLED WEB THEY WOVE
Until 1998, the Internet was overseen almost exclusively by one man: Jon Postel, a computer science professor at the University of Southern California. As a graduate student in the 1960s, he was among the handful of engineers who built the Internet. For the next 30 years, he managed it on behalf of the Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency, which funded the Internet's initial development.
Postel made seemingly technical decisions such as who should get to operate a country-code domain. Although it may seem odd that national address suffixes (such as ".uk," for the United Kingdom) were allocated to private individuals rather than government bodies, such was the case. In its early days, the Internet was so new and strange that there was usually no appropriate national organization to hand a suffix to. Besides, governments, and particularly their monopoly telecom carriers, more often hindered communications development than helped it. By the mid-1990s, however, it became clear to the small coterie of officials in the United States and elsewhere who were aware of the matter that the Internet could no longer be administered by a single individual. But who or what would replace him?
After a bitter series of negotiations among the business community, governments, and nongovernmental organizations worldwide, the Clinton administration helped broker a compromise and established ICANN in 1998. Because the United States' hands-off approach had allowed the Internet to flourish, it seemed appropriate that the new organization be based in the private sector. This would make it more responsive, more flexible, and less prone to bureaucratic and political squabbling. The negotiations were so tense that Postel suffered a heart attack as they were ending and never lived to see the birth of the successor organization he was instrumental in creating.

ICANN was an experiment, a bottom-up, multi-stakeholder approach toward managing a global resource on a nongovernmental basis. Indeed, in its early days it was often touted as a model for other issues that require the unified action of numerous groups from government, industry, and civil society, such as treating communicable diseases or handling climate change. ICANN's private-sector status, moreover, has helped keep the Internet free from political interference. When in 2002 members of the Federal Communications Commission were asked by their counterparts at China's Ministry of Information Industry why Taiwan had been allocated its own two-letter domain (".tw"), the commissioners could pass the buck to ICANN and breathe a sigh of relief.
Yet from the start, ICANN was plagued by controversy. Critics charged that it lacked transparency, accountability, and legitimacy. Civil-society groups felt it was in the pocket of the domain name registration businesses it was designed to regulate. Businesses felt it was overly governmental. And foreign governments felt powerless before it. As many developing countries woke to the Internet's importance, it struck them as outrageous that the Internet was essentially run by a nonprofit corporation whose 15-person board of directors was accountable to the attorney general of the state of California and under the authority of the U.S. government. Even the U.S. Congress criticized it, hauling the group into tense hearings regularly. Half a decade after it was founded with such optimism, the organization was mockingly referred to in tech-policy circles as "ICANN'T."
All this came to a head in 2003, during the preparatory meetings for the World Summit on the Information Society. Washington had been able to deflect criticism of ICANN in bilateral discussions but proved unable to block the momentum for change at the multilateral level. Telecom-policy officials mildly supportive of ICANN were replaced by senior representatives from foreign ministries, officials less familiar with the details of Internet governance but more experienced in challenging U.S. power. Watching the United States go to war in Iraq despite global opposition, these diplomats saw ICANN as yet another example of American unilateralism. What would prevent Washington, they argued, from one day choosing, say, to knock Iran off the Internet by simply deleting its two-letter moniker, ".ir," from the domain name system? Surely the Internet ought to be managed by the international community rather than a single nation.
Governments worldwide sought to dilute the United States' control by calling for a new arrangement, and in November 2004 UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed a 40-person working group to address questions of Internet governance. Washington had planned to grant ICANN autonomy from its oversight in 2006. But the more other countries clamored for power, the more the United States reconsidered its policy of relinquishing control. Ultimately, it came down to national interest: Washington, with so much at stake in the Internet's continuing to function as it had, decided it was not prepared to risk any changes. So, as the UN working group was preparing to release its report (which, unsurprisingly, favored transferring authority over the Internet to the UN), the U.S. government made a preemptive strike. In the brief Commerce Department statement, Washington announced its decision: the United States would retain its authority over ICANN, period.
THE OPEN NETWORK AND ITS ENEMIES
Power, before it comes from arms or wealth, emanates from ideas. The Internet has emerged as a piece of critical information infrastructure for every nation. Developed countries increasingly rely on it for their economic livelihood and basic communications; developing nations recognize it as a way of linking people together, enabling commercial relationships, and generating the transparency and civic dialogue that undergird democratic governance. Information technology can also strengthen the hand of authoritarian regimes, but there seems little doubt that in its current form the Internet's general influence is progressive rather than regressive.
ICANN cannot take credit for any of this, but the group's work has ensured that the network operates smoothly so that these benefits can be realized. As the overseer of the domain name system, the United States has taken a liberal approach in keeping with its liberal values. There is no guarantee that an intergovernmental system would continue on such a course, and so even committed internationalists ought to be wary of changing how the system is run.
This is especially so since the very countries that most restrict the Internet within their borders are the ones calling loudest for greater control. As other countries sharpen their diplomatic knives for the final round of the summit in Tunis in November, the dispute is echoing an earlier battle at Unesco in the 1980s over the so-called New World Information and Communication Order, which led the United States and the United Kingdom to pull out of the organization. Then, it was the Soviet Union, its satellites, and the developing world that called for controlling media activities and funding the development of media resources in developing countries; today, some of those same nations seek power over the Internet, as well as financial aid to overcome the digital divide.
Washington's new position shrewdly mixes a few carrots in along with the big stick. It formally acknowledges that countries have "sovereignty concerns" about their national two-letter address domains -- a mealy-mouthed nod toward granting countries control over them, which is only appropriate. Although this will invite problems, such as with Taiwan's ".tw," these can be sidestepped -- just as the allocation of telephone "country codes" to territories does not confer diplomatic recognition, neither does the allocation of country domains need to. Washington also supports the continued discussion of broader Internet governance issues in multiple forums, which could restrain the creation of a cumbersome and monolithic Global Internet Policy Council (which was among the UN working group's proposals). It may also keep politicians from trespassing on ICANN's more purely technical areas, which could harm the network.
Nevertheless, although the new U.S. position may be the least bad alternative in the short term, it will almost certainly be unsustainable over the longer term. For the moment, there is little other governments can do to rebel. Unless they feel their concerns are being addressed, however, they are likely to try to set up a parallel naming and addressing system to compete with ICANN-sanctioned domains. Technology abhors homogeneity; differing technical standards are the norm rather than the exception. The ongoing scuffle over the creation of Galileo, Europe's challenge to Washington's Global Positioning System, is one example; the battle over third-generation mobile-phone standards is another. The danger, however, is that two different addressing systems on the Internet may not interoperate perfectly. If it wants to preserve and extend the benefits the Internet currently brings, Washington will have to come up with some way of sharing control with other countries without jeopardizing the network's stability or discouraging free speech and technical innovation.

Ultimately, what is playing out is a clash of perspectives. The U.S. government saw the creation of ICANN as the voluntary relinquishing of a critical source of power in the digital age; others saw it as a clever way for Washington to maintain its hegemony by placing Internet governance in the U.S. private sector. Foreign critics think a shift to multilateral intergovernmental control would mark a step toward enlightened global democracy; Washington thinks it would constitute a step back in time, toward state-regulated telecommunications. Whether and how these perspectives are bridged will determine the future of a global resource that nearly all of us have come to take for granted.



What do you think shoul be done?

JM
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Bodo
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Oct, 2005 02:41 pm
I'm not really sure. I mean, who would it be turned over to? I'm really not too sure the UN would do a great job. Can you imagine if *insert random dictatorial nation here* got a position on the committee to regulate it? Or multiples?
0 Replies
 
husker
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Oct, 2005 02:42 pm
NO - NEVER
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husker
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Oct, 2005 02:54 pm
Just open up another Pandora's Box bu giving it to the U.N., everybody wants a piece of America at no cost. If the UN does steal it - there goes the english language. Outside of the defense industry I wonder who put up the money for the infra-structure for the pipes and routers and DNS servers? American Companies for the lions share - I bet!!!
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husker
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Oct, 2005 02:57 pm
Open up a new port on the pipes of the web infra-structure and maKe a new www by the rules we want - if you wanna play you pay
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husker
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 Oct, 2005 08:32 pm
Quote:
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2005 02:51 pm
Not yet. At present there are no real reasons to give up control. However other nations are right to want control of their own networks and ultimately do control the hardware. All we are really talking about is the IP and domain assignment control.

Any country can simply start doing it their own way, but there is a disadvantage to deviating from the standard because of interoperability.

The same holds true for us, and if the world simply starts something new it would help us to be on board.

The knee-jerk reactions about this (for no or for yes) have a lot more to do with nationalism and resentment of the UN than with technology or even understanding of what kind of control we are talking about.

P.S. Husker, you are not making a shred of sense. This has nothing at all to do with the English language or even with the hardware structure of the internet. It's not about "stealing" a "piece of America" either.

It's just about administrative control about how domain names and IP addresses are assigned.
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JamesMorrison
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2005 03:01 pm
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2005 03:31 pm
JamesMorrison wrote:

The best argument that other countries seem to have for turning over ICANN to international meddling is that America has major control over it. Following this logic we could present a strong argument for divesting OPEC countries of their oil.


This is a poor comparison James. This is about control of how names and numbers are assigned to their computers. ICANN does not own other people's computers. OPEC does own their oil.

At any time, the owners of said computers can simply decide to run the addresses for their own computers themselves. Nobody can stop them.

Thing is, some kind of organization is needed to make all the addresses work together and it makes sense for nations to be interested in interoperability of the naming conventions and interested in having a stake in how their computers are named.

Quote:
Somehow this argument is now supposed to convince us that internet control would be in better hands as decidedly less open societies like Iran and China or perhaps, at best, (shudder) France.


No, it is not. The argument is that people want a stake in how their computers are addressed. At any time any computer can be configured to ignore ICANN's "power".

I'll give you a simple example. You can open a text file on your computer (your HOSTS file) and rewrite the net a bit. You can, for example, make yahoo.com go to able2know's IP and circumvent all of this "power" that is being discussed.

At any time, entire nations can do the same thing. It's undesireable because the interoperability of the net will suffer. But it's important to remember that these nations ultimately do control their portions of the internet if they desire, and that this dispute is only over how computer names and addresses are allocated.

Quote:
Of course, those against American control of ICANN will couch their argument in the veil of "Internationalism" and suggest UN control similar to that of the International phone system. But do we really want a uniquely American institution with American values able to spread those values under the control of Administrators that fostered the UN's Oil for Food fiasco?


"American Values"? An IP address? Our values would be compromised if someone's computer in India were assigned a different number?

Quote:

Other countries want control of the internet for their own selfish and perhaps devious reasons—to control what their citizens know about, not only the outside world, but that of their own government’s machinations.


This is not in any way related to controling what their citizens know about, they can and do do this any time they want.

They can already control the pipes they need to do this, this is just about what computers are called, not what can be accessed.


Quote:
American control of the internet is like Winston Churchill’s description of Democracy: “…the worst form of government, except for all the others”.


How so? I don't think you even understand how it would be different, much less better or worse.
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husker
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Nov, 2005 10:49 pm
So what's the deal with like port 26 and port 110 who controls what happens via these ports? you see that on ftp and email stull all the time.
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husker
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Nov, 2005 10:53 pm
This is out of an daily email I get from InternetWeek

Quote:
InternetWeek readers usually have many different opinions, but when it
comes to turning over control of the Internet to the United Nations, they
speak in unison: No way! While a few readers would consider a move to an
international body, preferably one not controlled by governments, the
majority preferred to let the Internet remain under the United States.

Most of the arguments for the status quo pointed to the threat
non-democratic countries posed to the free flow of information currently
enjoyed on the Internet. There was also quite a bit of jingoism in the
argument that as a U.S. creation, we deserve to control the 'Net, and those
who don't like it should build their own.
In an unscientific InternetWeek readers poll, 70 percent of the respondents
said the U.S. should not transfer control to an international body under
any circumstances, and 25 percent believe the U.S. should take the lead in
such a move. The remainder had no opinion.

Personally, I believe the U.S. should take the lead in establishing an
international body, but should move very slowly. I also would oppose
placing that body under the sole control of the United Nations.

Anyway, here are some of the comments from InternetWeek readers:

The U.S. arguably fathered the Internet. Itis our baby. Why should we give
it up for adoption while itis still in its formative stages? The Internet
is probably the most democratic of all international entities and it's our
responsibility to take care of it. There are a lot of non-democratic
countries with a vested interest in seeing the Internet taxed and regulated
out of all usefulness because its open access to information tends to
undermine totalitarianism in a big way. -- Tom King, Texas

I cannot believe you advocate ceding control of the Internet to the United
Nations! Not only has the U.N. proved inept at every legitimate task it has
attempted, it proves hostile to the interests of the United Sates at every
turn. -- Steve Turley

The problem with what other countries desire is that they desire more
control of the Internet, not more freedom. ... If there is to be some
international controlling agency, it needs to be a non-governmental one,
not the thing that various politicians are calling for. -- Kenneth H.
Fleischer, Los Angeles

Give up control of the Internet you ask? Forget it!! We invented it -- We
funded it -- We own it -- and We Will control it. Let them build their own
Internet. -- Greg Besse

Baloney -- we should not share control of the Internet -- especially with
an organization as incompetent and corrupt as the U.N. ... Share power with
the G8? Maybe. Other democracies? Possibly. U.N.? No way. -- Tim Pittman

It is vital to the U.S. that we maintain control of the Internet that WE
CREATED! In giving control to bodies that would move against this country
we go against our own interests. -- Marcella Norwood

I agree 100 percent, the Internet may have started in the United States,
but it has become vital to the entire world, so it's logical that the world
should have some say in how it is run. -- John Hardebeck

I'm afraid the United States of America will not take the "take the lead in
finding a compromise." I'm a U.S.A. citizen that has been living outside of
the country for eight years now. In that time I have encountered numerous
times the U.S. egocentric attitude. -- Timothy Neto, Canada

There is a lot of work that must be done before any multinational
participation can begin. The most important factors are guarantees of
privacy and freedom to express ideas. ... The current arrangement is
inefficient and does not directly address the needs of the world's
governments. I find this comforting. -- James Johnson

If China and others are upset over U.S. control over the Internet, then
they are free to log off. That's the beauty of the 'Net: you're free to log
on and likewise free to log off. -- George Sabatino

It is far better to leave it as is. Let capitalism and market economies
dictate what is needed. -- William A. Billings

A compromise should involve a process that starts to bring others to the
table on our terms, starting with the E.U. But one that goes slowly. The
global Internet is young and delicate, but we have a system that works.
Let's not break it. -- Brendan Glavin, Falls Church, Va.
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JamesMorrison
 
  1  
Reply Thu 3 Nov, 2005 01:29 pm
Hey guys!

Husker, it would seem we are not alone in our affirmation of the status quo. Jingoism and nationalism aside, manifest in the response of InternetWeek is a deep suspicion of international organizational control of the internet. This is of little surprise given many past performances of the UN and especially recently regarding Paul Volcker's (et al) UN commissioned report on the Iraqi Oil for Food Program ( http://www.iic-offp.org/documents/InterimReportMar2005.pdf ).

CDK, my rhetorical flourishes you point to as poorly disguised logical analogies-- touché, but the intent was the former not the latter. You then point out my suspected ignorance in technical matters regarding the internet. Given my degree in computer science I can agree that this is one of many known unknowns to me.

But, as I need not know the skills of automotive engineering or manufacturing to enjoy the benefits of automotive use, neither do I need concern myself with the methodology involved with making the internet work. However, this does not address my, and others', concern when faced with the possibility that other countries' national agendas may interfere with not only free speech but global commerce via the internet, given their participation. The "Just Trust Us!" argument works neither for U.S. administrations or that of the UN.

But taking you at your word that "All we are really talking about is the IP and domain assignment control." then perhaps "At present there are no real reasons to give up control". And this is presently the U.S. position on the issue. Yet there are those that insist that international participation is important just in case there is, well, international participation. We are then to worry that if we (U.S.) do not bend to international wishes then countries will set up their own internets (intranets?) and we will lose the WWW. This result, if so realized, would justify the fears of those, such as myself, after all, if the WWW works fine and all it needs is some IP and domain addressing tweaks, why screw with it unless some parochial restrictions are intended?

But, in the interest of education and given international input into the administration of the internet, what would be "real reasons to give up (its) control"?

JM
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Sat 5 Nov, 2005 01:22 am
husker wrote:
So what's the deal with like port 26 and port 110 who controls what happens via these ports? you see that on ftp and email stull all the time.


Ports are, to oversimplify, merely "channels" for data. As to who controls them it's pretty much the same as TVs, generally it's the owner of the computer or hardware.

There's no port conspiracy or anything.


JamesMorrison wrote:

However, this does not address my, and others’, concern when faced with the possibility that other countries’ national agendas may interfere with not only free speech but global commerce via the internet, given their participation. The “Just Trust Us!" argument works neither for U.S. administrations or that of the UN.


They already have the power to do that. Anyone upstream of any network does.

Any DNS server is voluntarily configured to respect the structure of domain name resolution that is ultimately regulated by ICANN. There's no limitation to prevent them from disregarding the current domain name resolution processes.

Quote:
Yet there are those that insist that international participation is important just in case there is, well, international participation. We are then to worry that if we (U.S.) do not bend to international wishes then countries will set up their own internets (intranets?) and we will lose the WWW. This result, if so realized, would justify the fears of those, such as myself, after all, if the WWW works fine and all it needs is some IP and domain addressing tweaks, why screw with it unless some parochial restrictions are intended?

But, in the interest of education and given international input into the administration of the internet, what would be “real reasons to give up (its) control”?


Because it works fine only so long as there is not enough dissatisfaction to break the voluntary structure it operates on. It's like a government that successfully administrates interests for not only it's own nation but that of other nations with no real representation in said government.

As long as the other nations continue to voluntarily operate by the policies of the government all works well. This is because this particular government's only task is to ensure that computers from all over work well together.

However there's nothing but the downside of breaking the interconnectivity of the networks preventing others from disregarding the current adminitrative authority. And because this is not a particularly difficult system in which conflicting interests are heavily outweighed by mutual interests (again, we are talking about the regulation of a protocol that allows millions of machines to communicate with each other) if other nations gain enough momentum on the internet there will be benefits to ensuring that computers in various markets continue to communicate.

There's no real reason to make any changes for us now, except that self-determination will likely find its way to the internet domain name resolution system's adminitrative bodies and our leverage may decrease over time as the world's internet markets grow (they currently outpace our growth due to our headstart).

If a move for self-determination is made, it'd probably be in our interests to be involved. This is a situation in which what is at stake is cooperative functioning of networked computers. If there is serious dissatisfaction with the administrative entity then coming across as non-cooperative is counter-productive for the main situational goals.

Too much distrust about freedom of information and such just fuels the distrust that threatens cooperation in the first place. This really is about the names and numbers through which computers operate. If it comes to a head protectionism is an incongruous perspective to address the regulation of cooperation.

If opening up the regulatory agency can help ensure cooperation there is a valid reason to considering it.

Do you have an example of a scenario in which it would cause the harm you are concerned about?
0 Replies
 
el pohl
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Nov, 2005 10:24 am
Wow, this one died in a way I didnt imagine...
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husker
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Nov, 2005 03:15 pm
el_pohl wrote:
Wow, this one died in a way I didnt imagine...


I don't think it's dead yet - beside lots to learn and I like reading what CDK says.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Nov, 2005 04:41 pm
Quote:
Who Will Control the Internet?

By Kenneth Neil Cukier

from Foreign Affairs November/December 2005

Summary: Foreign governments want control of the Internet transferred from an American NGO to an international institution. Washington has responded with a Monroe Doctrine for our times, setting the stage for further controversy.

KENNETH NEIL CUKIER covers technology and regulatory issues for The Economist.


WASHINGTON BATTLES THE WORLD


As historic documents go, the statement issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce on June 30 was low-key even by American standards of informality. No flowery language, no fountain-penned signatures, no Great Seal of the United States -- only 331 words on a single page. But the simplicity of the presentation belied the importance of the content, which was Washington's attempt to settle a crucial problem of twenty-first-century global governance: Who controls the Internet?

Any network requires some centralized control in order to function. The global phone system, for example, is administered by the world's oldest international treaty organization, the International Telecommunication Union, founded in 1865 and now a part of the UN family. The Internet is different. It is coordinated by a private-sector nonprofit organization called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which was set up by the United States in 1998 to take over the activities performed for 30 years, amazingly, by a single ponytailed professor in California.

The controversy over who controls the Internet has simmered in insular technology-policy circles for years and more recently has crept into formal diplomatic talks. Many governments feel that, like the phone network, the Internet should be administered under a multilateral treaty. ICANN, in their view, is an instrument of American hegemony over cyberspace: its private-sector approach favors the United States, Washington retains oversight authority, and its Governmental Advisory Committee, composed of delegates from other nations, has no real powers.

This discontent finally boiled over at the UN's World Summit on the Information Society, the first phase of which was held in Geneva in December 2003 (the second phase is set for November in Tunis). Brazil and South Africa have criticized the current arrangement, and China has called for the creation of a new international treaty organization. France wants an intergovernmental approach, but one fundamentally based on democratic values.{See Footnote 1} Cuba and Syria have taken advantage of the controversy to poke a finger in Washington's eye, and even Zimbabwe's tyrant, Robert Mugabe, has weighed in, calling the existing system of Internet governance a form of neocolonialism.

How did such a welcomed technology become the source of such discord? Everyone understands that the Internet is crucial for the functioning of modern economies, societies, and even governments, and everyone has an interest in seeing that it is secure and reliable. But at the same time, many governments are bothered that such a vital resource exists outside their control and, even worse, that it is under the thumb of an already dominant United States. Washington's answer to these concerns -- the Commerce Department's four terse paragraphs, released at the end of June, announcing that the United States plans to retain control of the Internet indefinitely -- was intended as a sort of Monroe Doctrine for our times. It was received abroad with just the anger one would expect, setting the stage for further controversy.



Full report: link above.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2005 01:29 am
Quote:
On the line: the internet's future

By Daniel Howden
Published: 16 November 2005

Over the next three days a United Nations summit, in the unlikely setting of Tunisia, will attempt to thrash out the future of the internet.


More than 40 world leaders, including Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, are set to attend, and the ownership of the World Wide Web itself is at stake. What the delegates won't discuss is the creeping spectre of censorship.

What began as a military research project at the Pentagon has exploded into the most powerful network in the world and an entity upon which the global economy increasingly relies. Its future character is now in question.

At present, the closest the internet has to a governing body is an obscure American, non-profit corporation called Icann. This quasi-independent body has, for years, quietly regulated domain names and allocated addresses. But its lease is nearly up. And the world's rich and powerful will join battle for control of what they see as a gold mine.

The Bush administration wants Icann turned into a private corporation, on US soil and subject to US controls. Much of the rest of the world objects to that but the loudest opponents are countries with a history of censorship and repression, such as China and Iran. The likely balance of power in that struggle rests with the European Union, whose position is not clear.

The summit was originally conceived to address the digital divide - the gap between people who can get online and those, primarily in developing countries, who can't. Instead, it has been dominated by an argument over who controls the internet. The decisions of Icann - the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers - may seem very technical, but that does not mean they don't have direct political repercussions. The unelected Californian corporation could, in theory, block access to entire country domain names (all sites ending in .co.uk, for example, could be taken offline). But the alternative to that so far benign hegemony could, its defenders argue, be much worse. The countries leading the calls for control of the internet to be internationalised, under the aegis of the UN, are the same ones that have led the way in censoring their own citizens.

Remarkably, for a meeting called the World Summit on the Information Society, there will not be a single seminar or discussion panel held on freedom of expression. "The internet is not just a technical issue," Julian Bein, of the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, told The Independent yesterday.

"How can countries like China, Iran and Cuba be discussing internet governance?" Mr Bein asked. "It's not only China any more, this is a worldwide problem. Now every dictator or repressive regime in the world is attempting to control what their citizens can access."

The host of the summit, expected to attract 12,000 to 15,000 delegates and up to 50 world leaders, has hardly reassured those concerned that the spectre of censorship is being ignored.

Already, rights watchdogs say, both Tunisian and foreign reporters covering the summit have been harassed and beaten. Fears of a crackdown have led some civil society groups who plan to hold their own summit on the fringe of the gathering to conceal their plans.

At the weekend, a reporter with the French daily Libération, Christophe Boltanski, who had been investigating the recent beatings of human rights activists in Tunisia, was stabbed and kicked outside his hotel in Tunis. He was not seriously injured.

The Tunisia Monitoring Group has highlighted the cases of seven men now on a hunger strike in the country and estimates that about 500 more have been jailed for expressing opinions.

Robert Menard, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders, has been banned from attending the summit. He said: "Banning the head of an organisation that defends free expression from attending a summit about the information society is absurd and unacceptable."|

The exponential expansion of the internet has been accompanied by staunch resistance from countries anxious to prevent their own people from getting greater access to information. In the two years since the last internet summit, held in Geneva, the rise of filtering technology - deployed by states to control what they don't want people to see - has been dramatic and insidious.

Ben Edelman, an internet researcher at Harvard University, says countries using blocking technologies have found they can cut off web content they dislike, while still obtaining the internet's commercial benefits. "Go to, say, Thailand and request a banned site on politics or pornography. Thanks to blocking technologies like IP filtering, you probably won't get the web page you asked for," he said. "Neither will you get a warning saying 'This content is blocked.' Instead, your browser is likely to say 'host not found'. In fact things are just as the censors intended: the site is working fine, but you can't see it."

In Uzbekistan authorities copy controversial sites, change their content and then repost their own version - all without the users being aware. Countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates filter content openly and are proud of doing so. Iran earned notoriety by becoming the first country to imprison someone for the contents of an internet page, or blog.

But China remains the benchmark in censorship. Beijing has cajoled major US players such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo into adapting their sites and services to suit the censors. A Chinese web surfer typing the word "democracy" or "freedom" or "human rights" into their server will probably receive an error message announcing: "This item contains forbidden speech."

Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch said: "There have been great claims by internet companies that it would be an unstoppable tool for free expression and the spread of democracy. But when companies like Yahoo! Microsoft and Google decide to put profits from their Chinese operations over the free exchange of information, they are helping to kill that dream."

Last night, shareholders of the US hi-tech firm Cisco Systems were to vote on a resolution calling on management to release full details of their dealings with Chinese authorities. Pressure is building on Western companies to stop ignoring, and in some cases profiting from, censorship in repressive regimes.

Access denied: a round-the-world guide to internet provision

BURMA

The military junta permits only two service providers, both under direct state control. Of the approximately 25,000 internet users in 2003, virtually all were hand-picked members of the military or government.

CHINA

China has the world's most developed internet censorship technology, thanks, ironically, to companies such as Yahoo. The pro-democracy writer Wang Yi's blog was closed two weeks ago, days after he was nominated for an international award.

FRANCE

The Law on the Digital Economy (2004) states that service providers are legally responsible for the content their customers post online. Providers must also check the legality of any links they maintain.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Though one of the best-connected countries in the Gulf, the UAE's only service provider is state-owned. Medical and scientific sites that show naked parts of the human body, as well as publications about Buddhism, Sufism, religious sects and the US anti-war film-maker Michael Moore, are all blocked. Marriage agencies are allowed, but dating sites are banned.

GERMANY

Ogrish.com, a website displaying graphic images of violence and mutilation, has recently been blocked by its service provider after a complaint from a watchdog group called Jugendschutz (Youth Protection).

IRAN

Iranian censorship officially aims to protect the public from immoral, "non-Islamic" sites, but in reality concern centres on the political possibilities of the internet: it is currently easier to access pornographic websites than reformist ones. The authorities recently ordered all privately owned service providers to put themselves under government control, or else shut down.

TURKEY

The line between criticism in the public interest and insult in online publications is very blurred in the eyes of the courts. Cybercafé owners are obliged to monitor the activity of their users for pornography, gambling, political separatism or any challenge to the state.

Nikolai Frank
Source
0 Replies
 
el pohl
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2005 02:07 am
Wow, I'm excited.
0 Replies
 
timberlandko
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2005 02:28 am
el_pohl wrote:
Wow, I'm excited.


Dunno how much excitement is warranted. I anticipate a lotta words, followed by no meaningful change to the current status quo. Oversimplified a bit for the sake of brevity, my take is that The Internet has grown beyond parochial governance. If it is to continue - and not only WILL it continue, it will continue to grow both in reach and impact - Laissez Fair on the US model and under continuing minimal US oversight will be the order of things.

In short, The Internet has become a thing unto itself, transcending politics, directing, causing, structuring its own growth. As technology advances, satellite-based connectivity inevitably will supplant wireline, and by that time - which may be nowhere near so far off as many realize - borders, and the preferences within them, will be wholly irrelevant; "Controling" the Internet will be no more achieveable than controlling sunshine. Thats my take, anyhow.
0 Replies
 
yankeecat
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2005 08:12 am
The World backed down today and agreed to acede to the reality that America is the only nation strong enough, free enough and capable enough to continue to run the internet.

In any event, that was the way it was going to end anyway, so they simply agreed to avoid further humiliating themselves. All that has been proved is just how powerful the U.S. is vis a vie everyone else.
0 Replies
 
 

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