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Archive for the Ch 10: Internet Governance Category

Net neutrality round-up

Posted on Tue, Jul 18, 2006 at 3:31 PM by Andrew Chadwick

Net neutrality emerged as a controversial policy issue in the US, and, increasingly it would seem, in European countries as well, after my book went to press. It's a constantly moving target but some kind of punctuation has recently been achieved with the US Senate's Commerce Committee's rejection of a neutrality proposal. The Committee was unable to reach a majority decision and tied votes at 11-11. Democratic Senators backed the proposal, an amendment to the new Telecommunications Bill. The House of Representatives had rejected a similar amendment back in early June. From the CNet News article:

"Democrats had rallied behind an amendment, adapted from a standalone bill they offered in May, which would have barred network operators from discriminating "in the carriage and treatment of Internet traffic based on the source, destination or ownership of such traffic." That could have prevented Verizon from inking deals to offer high-definition video and prioritizing that on its network, for instance.
Without new rules prohibiting such practices, "we're giving two entities, the Bells and cable, the power to be able to cut deals, and that will change the relationship of entrepreneurs to the Internet and to the financial marketplace," said John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat."

You might be wondering why net neutrality matters? Fundamentally it's a classic case of how infrastructure regulation has implications for the kinds of services and content that will be produced and consumed online. If you like the idea of people being able to freely create and distribute online content and offer useful services to people who can access those services freely, you'll be in favour of net neutrality. If you don't mind large telecommunication and/or media companies charging higher prices for people to create and consume certain content and services, or, worse still, completely denying access in some cases, then you'll be against it. The "neutrality" concept is analagous with telephone service. As Google puts it: "just as telephone companies are not permitted to tell consumers who they can call or what they can say, broadband carriers should not be allowed to use their market power to control activity online." Here is a collection of useful links to read more about this:

CNet News with lots of links to older stories

Susan Crawford's Net Neutrality FAQ

Article for Slate by Tim Wu

Wikipedia entry

Rant on This Week in Tech

And finally... a funny take by Jon Stewart (clip on Youtube)

Edited on: Tue, Jul 18, 2006 3:35 PM

Rick Boucher and Internet governance

Posted on Thu, Apr 06, 2006 at 3:32 PM by Andrew Chadwick

US Representative Rick Boucher, (Democrat, Virginia) is continuing to raise concerns over the US Department of Commerce's and ICANN's handling of domain names. ICANN recently approved an agreement with US company Verisign which effectively grants the latter control over the .com domain for evermore, irrespective of whether Verisign handles it badly or raises registration fees. The deal must receive final approval from the Department of Commerce, but Boucher is concerned that handing such a lucrative contract to Verisign will fuel the controversy over US dominance of the net which came to a head at the second round of the World Summit on the Information Society back in November 2005.

A copy of a recent letter from Boucher to the House Energy and Commerce Committee can be found on Kieren McCarthy's blog.

Who says national governments can't regulate the Internet? Not Borat

Posted on Wed, Dec 14, 2005 at 10:23 PM by Andrew Chadwick


Who says national governments can't regulate the Internet?

Granted, this is an unusual case, not only because Sacha Baron Cohen is a comedian, but also because the government of Kazakhstan wants to exercise tight control over who gets to register sites using its country code top level domain. Briefly, it is insisting that the DNS servers which make the .kz domain work must be physically located in the country itself. A vivid illustration of how important control over the DNS is for censoring the Internet.

Reporters Without Borders have complained to ICANN, on the grounds that KazNIC, which runs the domain .kz, has only technical not political leverage.

The WSIS outcome

Posted on Mon, Nov 21, 2005 at 11:03 AM by Andrew Chadwick

The second round of the WSIS has been completed and a decision made on Internet governance. The details are yet to fully emerge, but the basic result is a compromise: minor reform of the existing arrangements. ICANN will retain its control over the DNS, and the United States will formally retain its control over ICANN. A new Internet Governance Forum will be created to accommodate civil society groups, but its powers appear to be limited, and it is also uncertain how much of a role governments will play in its operation.

At the moment, the UN/intergovernmental control proposal - originally tabled by a group of countries including China, Brazil, Iran and Pakistan, and supported by the EU back in late summer - has been pushed aside. Strangely, the EU delegates remained very quiet on this. A report by Kieren McCarthy in the Guardian suggests that a letter from Condoleezza Rice in the build-up to the WSIS asked the EU to reconsider.

Most commentators seem to be suggesting that this is the beginning rather than the end of the Internet governance battle. There is an interesting perspective by Milton Mueller at ICANNwatch. He suggests that the decision strengthens the role of governments in ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee and the new Forum will also be open to governmental influence. In other words, those states pushing for greater control will have an opportunity to continue - inside ICANN's structures. All with US oversight of course.

UK position on Internet governance

Posted on Fri, Oct 21, 2005 at 6:34 PM by Andrew Chadwick

Nominet, the .uk domain name registry, has spoken out against the EU/Brazil/China/Iran position on Internet governance. It will be interesting to hear the position of the British and other European government spokespersons on this issue in the build up to the next WSIS meeting. I suspect that the British government may be much keener on the 'pro-regulation' perspective than Nominet, primarily because all of the pro-regulation options involve greater political involvement to a greater or lesser extent.

The UN working group on Internet governance has outlined four options (quoted from the BBC report):

'Option One - create a UN body known as the Global Internet Council that draws its members from governments and "other stakeholders" and takes over the US oversight role of Icann.
Option Two - no changes apart from strengthening Icann's Governmental Advisory Committee to become a forum for official debate on net issues.
Option Three - relegate Icann to a narrow technical role and set up an International Internet Council that sits outside the UN. US loses oversight of Icann
Option Four - create three new bodies. One to take over from Icann and look after the net's addressing system. One to be a debating chamber for governments, businesses and the public; and one to co-ordinate work on "internet-related public policy issues"'

Important shifts in Internet governance?

Posted on Fri, Sep 30, 2005 at 12:39 PM by Andrew Chadwick

In advance of the second round of the WSIS in November, it appears that Internet governance (or, more specifically, governance of the Domain Name System and ICANN's remit), is in some turmoil. Of particular significance here is a coming to the surface of divisions that have been grumbling on for some time - between the EU/ITU/developing countries and the US/ICANN.

The EU's suggestions for a replacement for ICANN appear to be pretty sketchy at this stage. No doubt more details will follow in the lead-up to the WSIS.

Update: there's a good article about this by Bill Thompson on the openDemocracy site.

Update: another good article by Richard Wray at The Guardian

Geek orthodox

Posted on Sat, Sep 10, 2005 at 2:36 PM by Andrew Chadwick

Internet pioneer and current Chairman of ICANN, Vint Cerf, is to move from telecoms firm MCI to Google. His job title is "Chief Internet Evangelist", and he says his language will be "Geek Orthodox". Cerf's role, along with Bob Kahn and many others, in the development of TCP/IP, is, of course, well-known.

This is a fascinating development for what it tells us about Google's strategy. It has already reinvented itself as an Internet services company, and it appears likely to move further in this direction with people like Cerf on board. Cerf's knowledge of the technical building blocks that make the Internet what it is, as well as his role in the controversial ICANN, will give Google all kinds of insider knowledge.

As Cerf says: "What Google has really been doing is building an entirely new infrastructure and whenever you do that, it creates opportunities for new applications".

Back in the dotcom boom, there was much excitement about the 'ASPs' - application service providers. The 'death of the desktop' was declared. What we are seeing now with Google is a move to make a big dent in the desktop operating system concept, by moving a lot of the stuff we do with our computers into a client-server environment. This allows us to access dynamically updated information from many different locations, using many different devices. All of this requires knowledge of how net technology can be shaped through new standards and protocols - Cerf's domain.

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