[CCWG-ACCT] The Internet's design and ICANN responsibility (was Re: GPI)
Becky.Burr at neustar.biz
Mon Jan 4 15:13:53 UTC 2016
J. Beckwith Burr
Neustar, Inc. / Deputy
General Counsel & Chief Privacy Officer
1775 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington D.C. 20006
Office: +1.202.533.2932 Mobile: +1.202.352.6367 / neustar.biz
On 1/2/16, 4:19 PM, "Andrew Sullivan" <ajs at anvilwalrusden.com> wrote:
>On Sat, Jan 02, 2016 at 07:47:31AM +0000, Mueller, Milton L wrote:
>> The Internet and particularly the DNS is a global infrastructure.
>>In this context, there is a global Internet-using public and DNS
>>governance should reflect and respond to this globalized community,
>>not a collection of national communities with their own distinct and
>>possibly incompatible notion of what is in the public interest.
>I don't think that Milton and I really disagree about this, but I'd
>like to draw out a point. This point is why I believe it to be
>important that ICANN's role be clearly limited. The limitation is
>based on the fundamental design of the Internet. Those who do not
>accept this sort of limitation are, in effect, arguing for something
>other than the Internet. I apologise that this is long, but I thought
>it more important to be explicit.
>Both the Internet and the DNS are at once global and local. The
>nature of internetworking means that the global Internet is built only
>of other (inter)networks. Similarly, we usually think of the DNS as a
>tree structure and we often emphasise the common root as a result.
>But we can think if it another way: the DNS is made up of a collection
>of zones operated mostly independently from one another. The Internet
>is a radically distributed system: almost all of the technical
>operation is undertaken without any direct co-ordination with anyone,
>performed by an enormous number of independent operators. This means
>that interoperation is fundamentally a voluntary thing. In your
>network, you make your rules, and there is no stick (outside of
>national law) to make you interoperate with others. Instead, there is
>only the carrot: if you interoperate, you get the benefits of that
>interoperation. This is the near-magic that is the functioning of the
>It turns out that the magic is made a little easier if we have a
>minimal amount of central co-ordination. In principle, you could do
>this some other way, but this is how we do it now. IANA's job is the
>So, to allow packets to go from one network to another, it's necessary
>to be able to tell one another what network you're operating (that's
>how routing works -- BGP announcements do this). And in order that,
>when you say, "I'm running this network," everyone else needs to know
>what "this network" means. The way we do that is a common number
>space, and to have a common number space it is convenient to have a
>registry of the source of commonality, and IANA does it.
>Similarly, to make it easy for the various networks to connect to one
>another in a reliable way, they can use common protocols set up in a
>particular way. To know how to set up the protocols, it's convenient
>to have a single place to look up the settings. Keeping the list of
>those settings -- the protocol parameters -- is another IANA job.
>Finally, names that are assigned locally won't be any use to those on
>other networks unless the other network users know how to get to those
>names. To know how to do that, it is convenient to have a place to
>start looking. Mathematically, a way to do that (and one that is not
>too hard to implement in computers) is a tree structure, which by
>definition starts from a common root. That common root is IANA's job.
>This job turns out to be special, too, because while the other two
>registry types have a well-defined policy source, the policy source
>for the root zone turns out to be ICANN as well. This fact is (I
>guess we all know) how we got into the current controversy.
>But notice that the DNS itself is a matter of convenience. We _could_
>have other naming systems on the Internet. There are peer-to-peer
>systems that have already been invented and are in fact deployed.
>There are alternatives that have been proposed but turn out for
>practical purposes to depend on the DNS anyway (e.g. the "handles"
>system from DONA), but that need not. And so on.
>Now, because of the nature of the Internet, which relies on all those
>interconnected networks voluntarily interoperating, the convenience of
>centralization is a trade-off. You trade a central point of control
>(IANA) for the advantages of simplicity in protocol design,
>implementation, and operation. But if the central control is too
>great -- if, for instance, it starts trying to impose controls down
>through the DNS tree, or it starts trying to demand strict
>interconnection regimes along geopolitical lines, or whatever -- then
>all the independent networks that are now gaining the benefit of easy
>interoperation will get less "carrot" than they do today.
>The Internet scales the way it does because the overwhelming majority
>of interconnections from large ISPs are done with a handshake: I want
>your packets and you want mine, and we peer. If the world decides to
>make that hard, it changes the business models of all the ISPs.
>Similarly, the domain name system is a terrible user experience,
>really, and that's the reason we have so many hacks on it. But part
>of the reason it scales so well is because the co-ordination ends at a
>delegation point: the root zone delegates com to Verisign, and after
>that has basically nothing to say about what happens inside com.
>Similarly, Verisign delegates anvilwalrusden.com to me, and they don't
>have anything to say about what I do in my zone.
>If we start to chip away at that distributed operation by attempting
>to use ICANN's policy conrtrol over the root zone to impose
>regulations down the tree, we are attacking the model that has made
>the Internet work at all. Moreover, we risk driving people away from
>the domain name system into some other technology -- a change that
>will certainly not happen overnight, and which will lead to
>balkanization and damage to the system's usability.
>So, I don't think "the global public interest", whatever that means,
>does anything to help us to understand what ICANN should do. ICANN
>should pay attention to its well-understood and needed functions. It
>should not go adventuring out into global governance issues that
>distract from that narrow set of responsibilities. And it should not
>embrace language that distracts from the narrow responsibilities --
>lest such language become an attractive nuisance that encourages
>people to think ICANN has power it never has had and (given the design
>of the Internet) can't get.
>ajs at anvilwalrusden.com
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