Archive for the ‘Global politics’ Category

Internet Governance History (written 2010)

March 28, 2011

Excerpts from A Brief History of the Internet (prepared for Diplo Foundation by Ian Peter, 2010)





Much like the Internet itself, internet governance evolved as needs had to be met, and began to involve stakeholders as they started to make their presence felt.


In the beginning, Internet governance was just the technical community, and the only real issue was development and adoption of technical standards.


And because they figure prominently in early internet governance arrangements, a good place to start is the standards groups. Here, although this is not an exhaustive list, we need to look at the International Telceommunications Union (ITU), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).


The Standards bodies


The oldest of the standards bodies is ITU, founded in 1865.  Given that telephony infrastructure is what the Internet was built on, and continues to play a key role in internet service provision, many ITU standards are important to internet operation. The ITU originally represented countries, who originally owned telecommunications infrastructure in most countries, but later more industry presence became necessary as telecommunications deregulation and privatisation occurred in most countries.


But the Internet technical community wanted something less bureaucratic and more attuned to their needs. It should be remembered that  most telecommunications companies were not major players in the emerging Internet. They became more involved from 1990 on, as a commercial Internet got underway.

To involve the emerging Internet technical community, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) was founded in 1986.  IETF  evolved from the INWG (International Networking Group, founded 1972), and describes itself as “a loosely self-organized group of people who contribute to the engineering and evolution of Internet technologies specifications”. The IETF is unusual in that it is not a corporation and has no board of directors, no members, and no dues.


Associated with, and preceding the IETF in some cases, are a number of bodies. An early development in 1979 was the Internet Configuration Control Board, (ICCB) which from 1984 underwent a number of name changes but kept the acronym “IAB”  Internet Advisory Board, Internet Activities Board, and then Internet Architecture Board. IAB oversees IETF, and also the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) and the RFC Editor. The latter is an interesting early development dating right back to 1969 when Steve Crocker developed the First Request for Comments (RFC01). This format for discussion and development of Internet standards has remained to this day in  IETF.


The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the third “standards body”, and effectively addresses issues with the World Wide Web architecture. It separated from IETF in 1994 as it believed IETF to be incapable of dealing with its particular range of issues. W3C has been particularly active on internet accessibility issues and a range of standards to do with the WWW.


IANA and the DNS


But other administrative needs began to emerge as the Internet grew. And we should start our history here with the mother of all systems, the world’s largest database, the Domain Name System or DNS.

Each host on the Internet has a range of IP (or Internet protocol) numbers. The Domain name system (DNS) maps the numbers to names of hosts or websites (eg, Thus, when a user enters a name, the Internet knows which number to send the query to by looking up the DNS database.

The DNS was introduced in 1984, several years before commercial traffic was able to be part of the Internet.

Associated with the DNS is the WHOIS database, which stores details of the names and addresses of domain owners and technical contacts. It was named after a UNIX operating system command (whois) which gave basic details about system users. Whois was established essentially to allow technical managers of hosts to contact their peers.  Like so much of the early Internet infrastructure, the whois database used the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII). ASCII doesn’t accommodate non English character sets well, thus setting into play a number of technical issues still being resolved in 2010 to allow a truly multilingual internet.

From the late 1980s and the person most responsible for major  administrative functions in the developing Internet was Jon Postel.

Postel originally looked after names and numbers, and basically is responsible for the early administration of the DNS – or domain name system. It is the DNS adminstration which evolved into ICANN – but the story of how it got there is a fascinating one.  Working from the Information Science Institute (ISI) at the University of South California (USC). Postel was also responsible for allocating blocks of IP addresses to the newly developing  Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), management of domain names and top level generic and country domains, and also , under the auspices of IANA, a system for co-ordinating the Internets root servers (more on these later as well!)

As mentioned before, originally Postel administered the Domain Name System (DNS) himself. But as it became a bit too large, in 1988 he formed the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority Originally a one person organisation, it soon became clear that something more stable and internationally acceptable was needed.


ICANN evolution


What followed was quite intriguing and involved a group of players who are still involved in  Internet governance  discussions in 2010. To quote Wolfgang Kleinwachter (2009)[i],


His (Postel”s)  first idea was to use the “Internet Society” (ISOC), established in 1992, as an umbrella organization. In 1994 he proposed adding 150 new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) to the existing Domain Name System consisting of seven gTLDs[7] and 243 ccTLDs in 1994.

Postel’s initiative was not co-ordinated with the US Department of Commerce. Network Solutions Inc. (NSI), a private company based in Herndon/Virginia which managed .com, .net, and .org as well as the A Root Server, was rather angry about such an initiative. In 1992 NSI had been given a contract by the DOC to be the sole domain name registrar for the three gTLDs .com, .net and .org. Based on such a monopoly position NSI saw in the emerging domain name market a grandiose new business opportunity. Consequently, NSI opposed the Postel plan to introduce 150 competitive gTLDs at this early stage in the development of a global domain name market. NSI lobbied the US Congress and the DOC, which finally intervened with Postel’s plan and stopped the handover of the DNS management to ISOC and the introduction of 150 new gTLDs.


Postel’s frustration about this governmental intervention prompted him to look for other options. He approached the Geneva based International Telecommunication Union (ITU)…… Postel’s idea was to create a new form of public-private partnership for Internet Governance by bringing technical organizations, private sector institutions and intergovernmental organizations together, launching a bottom-up policy development process and creating a new form of oversight body for the management of some of the key Internet resources. Postel pushed for the establishment of an “Interim Ad Hoc Committee” (IAHC) which was formed in summer 1996”.


The members of the IAHC were ISOC and Postel’s IANA, the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), the International Trademark Association (INTA), the ITU and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).  In 1997 they signed an MOU proposing a new Geneva based structure.


The US Government was unhappy about this, and within a few weeks began a process to ensure that this plan did not eventuate. Under the Clinton administration, they began a process to establish an alternative mechanism for DNS management, and its successive Green Paper and White Paper outlined a new organization.


Again quoting Kleinwachter,


“ The European Union supported in principle the idea of privatizing the DNS. But it criticized the US centric approach of the Green Paper. In a rather critical comment about the Green Paper the European Commission wrote: “The European Union and its Member States would wish to emphasize our concern that the future management of the Internet should reflect the fact that it is already a global communication medium and the subject of valid international interests.


Ira Magaziner, US President Clinton’s Internet adviser and the main architect of what later became ICANN, replied in a hearing before the US Congress to the European criticism: “The purpose of the Commerce Department proposal is to improve the technical management of the DNS only. The Green Paper does not propose a monolithic Internet Governance system. Frankly we doubt that the Internet should be governed by a single body or plan.”


Jon Postel again changed his plans and took active part in the debate which led to a “White Paper”, published in June 1998 by the US Department of Commerce.” [ii]


The US Government prevailed, and thus ICANN was born.- with a MOU with the US Government Department of Commerce which included in part “ICANN will perform other IANA functions as needed upon request of DOC”. Thus ICANN became a corporation under US law, with a contract to operate from the US government, despite concerns of many stakeholders.


Jon  Postel unfortunately died  in 1998,  just a dew days before ICANN was formally established,


ICANN originally claimed its mission to be technical co-ordination. However, because of the eccentricities and incomplete nature of Internet governance structures, ICANN has consistently worked in areas that cannot be regarded as technical co-ordination.


For instance, in 1999 it succeeded in establishing a Uniform Dispute Resolutions Policy (UDRP) for the top level domains; hardly a technical co-ordination task, but certainly a useful one for development of the new media.


Also there is the role of ICANN in creating a competitive environment in DNS, part of its contract with US Department of Commerce. This would normally be seen as a regulatory body’s responsibilities, not a technical co-ordination task.


Public policy matters where ICANN is active include intellectual property issues and security. Public policy matters where ICANN is not active include spam and consumer protection. The logic of involvement and non-involvement in various issues is not easy to follow except from a historical perspective.


2009 saw another important milestone in Internet governance, in that the long standing Joint Project Agreement (JPA) beween ICANN and the US Government was terminated. However, the US control of the root zone remains, and is the subject of some concerns with the international community.


ICANN related bodies

It is important to realize that ICANN doesn’t control everything in Internet technical co-ordination. An interesting history associated with the early growth of the Internet led to a number of other quite independent structures being established. These include:


  • Country domain administrators, who in many countries were early technical volunteers who have no formal relationship with national governments. In some developing countries, country administrators are located overseas and are not national citizens. Although a form of techno neo-colonialism remains in the administration of some country domains, and some hostility to co-operation with government authorities exists in others, most country domains are now forming appropriate locally defined relationships with their governments and their local constituencies.
  • Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) such as APNIC (Asia Pacific) and RIPE (Europe), which were set up before the ICANN/US Government contract was in place and retain substantial independence while administering the IP numbering system.
  • Root server operators, many of them volunteers. The 13 root servers (plus a number of subsidiary server clusters) are central to the way the Internet finds addresses (eg. Dot com, or dot cn for China etc. The central root server is administered by Verisign Ltd, and any changes need the approval of the US Dept of Commerce, usually on a recommendation from ICANN.  This authority is the centre of some contention among the international community. The Root servers are governed by the Root Server System Advisory Committee (RSSAC), not ICANN, under supervision by the US Government.


ICANN has a series of relationships with these separate bodies.


WSIS and the rise of IGF

The early networkers didn’t see much of a role for governments – but as the Internet grew, it became clear that governmental involvement was necessary, and that, given the transboundary nature of the Internet, global co-operation was a necessary component of governmental involvement. Out of these concerns grew the Internet Governance Forum.


The concerns were first expressed in the lead up to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), during which internet governance became a major issue. At the first WSIS meeting in Geneva in 2003, this subject was discussed, and from these discussions a Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) was formed to discuss possible next steps and report back to the Tunis WSIS summit in 2005.


Not all matters were able to be resolved here, and the US Government in particular refused to countenance any changes to its unilateral control of the Internet’s root zone. However, there was agreement to form an Internet Governance Forum for a period of five years. IGF held its first forum in Greece in 2006, and in subsequent years in.Rio de Janiero (Brazil), Hyderabad (India), Sharm el Sheikh (Egypt) and Vilnius (Lithuania).  As this lesson is being written in 2010, the future of IGF after its initial five year period is under discussion, but there is widespread support for its continuance.


What is clear is that internet governance is still evolving – just as the Internet itself is. Issues such as cybercrime, copyright, privacy and national sovereignty were not on the minds of the Internet pioneers – but in the second decade of the 21st century these are beginning to loom large as new issues that need to be addressed more comprehensively. The Internet and the world are changing, and the rich history of the Internet certainly has some more chapters to be written in the future!


I trust you have enjoyed and gained from this short introduction to internet history.


References and further reading

[i] Wolfgang Kleinwachter, 2009, History of Internet Governance, (accessed April 2010)


[ii] Wolfgang Kleinwachter, 2009, History of Internet Governance, (accessed April 2010)


Milton Mueller, 2002, Ruling the Root, MIT Press



Sharm Internet Governance Forum Workshops

February 14, 2010

Thanks to the great work of Imagining the Internet, I am happy to be able to post these links to the three workshops I was involved with at IGF 2009, along with summaries and videos. Thanks Janna and team for your excellent work – and thanks also to all the organisers and participants in the various workshops.

Net  Neutrality and Open Internet

Also includes Robert Pepper, VP global technology policy, Cisco; Thomas Lenard, president, Technology Policy Institute; Emmanuel Edet, national ICT Development Agency, Nigeria; Jacquelyn Ruff, VP global policy and regulatory affairs, Verizon, Vladimir Radunovic, DiploFoundation; David Gross, former U.S. information technology ambassador.

Internet Core Values

Also includes Daniel Dardailler, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C); Alun Michael, member of Parliament, United Kingdom; Nathaniel James, director of OneWebDay;  Lynn St. Amour, president/CEO, Internet Society; Markus Kummer, executive director of IGF; Alejandro Pisanty, longtime ICANN and Internet Society leader, National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Transationalisation of the Internet

Also includes Wolfgang Kleinwächter, professor of Internet policy, University of Aarhus, Denmark; Robert Kahn, chairman, CEO and president of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives, U.S. and Internet co-founder; Anja Kovacs, IT for Change, India; Jeremy Malcolm, Internet and open source lawyer for Consumers International; Robert Pepper, vice president of global policy and government affairs for Cisco; Janna Anderson, Imagining the Internet, Elon University and Pew Internet Project.

Internet Governance Forum continued

November 1, 2009

This year, the Internet Governance Forum will meet in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, in early November. This is year four of this interesting United Nations sponsored event, and the first to be held in the wake of increased independence for ICANN.

There is a lot on the program – here’s just a summary of some of the sessions I am personally involved in and some preliminary thoughts.

Civil Society meeting – 7pm, November 14. This will be my last civil society meeting as a Co-ordinator of the Internet Governance Caucus, the main coordinating body for non government sector input into the forum. It’s been a difficult year in several respects, and I glad to see my term of office come to an end.  The meeting is important, particularly for newcomers to get to meet their colleagues before the meeting proper gets underway.

Workshop on Transnationalisation of Internet Governance – where to from here? 9.30am, November 15. I’m really looking forward to this session right at the start of the meeting proper, which I will be chairing. After expert overview from Drs Wolfgang Kleinwachter (Giganet) and Janna Anderson (Imagining the Internet and Pew Internet Survey), we have a great panel to respond to issues raised, including Dr Jeremy Malcolm, Dr Elena Pavan by remote participation, Robert Pepper from Cisco, and also Robert Kahn, acknowledged by most people as  the co-founder of the Internet with Vint Cerf. We are looking to a good exchange of viewpoints here and with the audience as well – in the wake of increased independence for ICANN and some greater emphasis on the multistakeholder model, what will this mean for areas such as cybercrime, and for other bodies such as ITU?  Many questions here, it should be a great scene-setter.

Workshop on Core Values, November 16, 2pm. I’m looking forward to speaking at this one, with a great range of colleagues. This identification of core values is important – I am certain the technology will continue to change, but what is it that has made the Internet useful that we need to ensure we maintain amidst the changes? This should be an interesting workshop.

Net Neutrality Workshop, 2pm, November 18. I’ll be speaking here with a group with a wide range of interests in this subject, from activists through to network managers and national regulators. Ive written before on the confusion that surrounds this debate – I am looking forward to being able to say a few things from a consumer perspective about what we really need to achieve here.

And apart from these, I am looking forward to seeing old friends and socialising, and getting a chance to see the pyramids en route home (via Beijing of all places).

It will be interesting to see how the meeting goes. IGF has had a great influence on the Internet, bringing together stakeholders from business, government and non governmental organisations, to get a good exchange of viewpoints on where the Internet needs governance structures. To date its achievements have been facilitating a dialogue between all the key players – perhaps that is all it will ever achieve – and if thats the case, it has still been worthwhile.

Time to stop talking about net neutrality

February 12, 2009

It’s time we stopped talking about network neutrality and redescribed what we are trying to achieve here. The term has been distorted greatly to become a series of arguments about traffic shaping, network management, carrier profitability, and endless nit-picking technical arguments. This is distorting some important matters about the future of the Internet and only causing confusion. The term has lost its meaning.

And, in fact, there probably never was network neutrality. A few recent postings on the Internet History list have shown that, even in the pre-commercial Internet days of the NSF-Net, engineers were shaping traffic in order to give priority to the interactive telnet application (a precursor to world wide web) over the email and newsgroup traffic. Sensible bandwidth management.

For most of us, the reason for getting involved here was to protect a fundamental principle – the right for users to control which websites they can visit, which access methods, which applications they use, rather than this being forced on them by a carrier or other parties for their commercial gains. If this principle is lost, and we end up with something like a PAY TV model of Internet access where you pay to access certain sites, or content providers pay a premium to get fast access from carriers, something fundamentally important about the Internet will be lost.

The substance here is vitally important, but the terminology has lost its meaning. Perhaps we need to alk about equitable access to carriage for content providers, equitable access to content and applications for end users, and similar principles. It’s important to get this debate back on track.






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Emerging Issues in Internet Governance

December 10, 2008

Below are my edited opening remarks from the Plenary Session on Emerging Issues at Hyderabad, India, December 6 2008

Thank you very much, and good morning, everybody. I think it helps in examining subjects like this to pull ourselves away from our immediate environment and, as best we can, look into the future, and see if we can identify some of the issues and some of the factors that we are going to address. So, to me, the next billion users of the Internet is going to happen, and happen very rapidly. It will be over perhaps by the time we meet again. But the last billion, well, it’s going to take some time. The first billion took 20 years, as was pointed out. I think by the time we get to the last billion, we have some order to difficulties and that might take us out another 20 years.

So in order to do so, I’d like to welcome you all to IGF 2028. The IGF 2028 meeting is taking place in Reykjavik, Iceland. I’ll explain a little bit why we’re there later. I’m participating virtually from Australia for various reasons. And I’m on high-definition conference link from Australia, being able to participate from there. So thank you for the opportunity. The other piece of news I must relate 20 years enhance is, Australia has just beaten India in the cricket for the first time in 20 years. So that is a great thrill for me. Thank you. When I’m talking about the last billion, I should say that we — that there are some people who are, obviously — we’re not talking about the last billion of the world’s population. I think we can leave out everybody who arrived yesterday and/or probably everybody under the age before three. But we do start to pick up at the age of about three or four, as I know from my grandchildren, who hop on the net and play games. So we do have three-and four-year-old users. I guess there are also a number of people who simply don’t want to have anything to do with the Internet. So that’s okay, too, I’m excluding them. I’m including in the last billion people who see there is advantage for their family, for their children, to be connected here and all the advantages that other people have from the Internet, they want them. So they’re in and we’re trying to deal with those.

So let’s get of profile of where they are, as best we can. And let me say that quite a few of this last billion are in developed countries. They are in rural pockets, which have not been connected and are very hard to connect, in countries like Australia it could be the remote indigenous communities. Who are amongst the last billion. So we certainly have pockets still in developing countries. And we have urban poor in developed countries who also will be part of that last billion. But to a large degree, the last billion will be those who are slower in adopting, at this point in time, will still be so. And that will be the case. So there are areas on the planet that will need higher concentration than others in order to bring the equity that does derive from all of us from having access to this thing. Quite a few of the last billion won’t be able to read or write. That won’t be a problem for them because a lot of the uses they will have will be around gaming or around downloading, downloading videos, downloading music, these sort of factors. So that’s not a problem but it is an interesting factor because then the tool for literacy that exists with the Internet becomes a very interesting thing that starts to come to the fore. So these are the things that are happening. And the other factor that comes in with the last billion that’s very interesting for us is multilingual. You ain’t seen nothing yet. But the time we get to the last billion and some of the languages we have to deal with, it starts to become quite complex.

Let’s talk about the devices we use with the last billion, and very few of them are going to be computers. Most of them are going to be mobile devices. We are going to be in a mobile world. And some of these devices will be mobile phones, some will be what we used to call PDAs and all sorts of smaller devices, but the computer won’t be amongst the dominant devices at that point in time. That raises fairly interesting issues, and we will come back to those as we start to talk about infrastructure and so on. But as I said before, the dominant — some of the dominant media we use at this point in time will not be the dominant Internet media with the last billion. The concentration will be more towards what our kids do, which is the downloading, the texting, the games. All these things come into this space. There’s a ramification of these things with mobile and we will get to it. Let me talk about some of the issues and try and structure this a little bit. And I am not going to paint the whole picture, but perhaps raise some questions and some ideas which are a part of the picture for you to fill in yourself and see how you think we ought to address some of these things.

Now, why are we in Reykjavik, Iceland? We are in Iceland because Iceland is the fastest growing Internet economy on the planet. Iceland, the basket case economically of the great depression of 2008 has jumped ahead because of the major project under way to create the carbon neutral Internet. Iceland’s vast geothermal resources have been put to use, and major server farms — in fact, most server farms in Europe, most major locations in Europe, a lot of government data centers in Europe have all relocated into Reykjavk to get near the geothermal thing. Other areas of the world with good renewable energy resources have also jumped ahead, too. So there is a great new economy and a great number of new possibilities arising from this. Some of the other features that we’ll see is most of us will have our biodegradable mobile phones. We have started with the carbon neutral Internet to start to address the major problems of junk. And I know one of my fellow panelists is going to raise this issue later. In getting to this carbon neutral Internet we have started to create a vastly different architecture and start to really use the way that the Internet works in a vastly different way.

Let’s talk about the infrastructure for this. So you might think that usage will probably be about six times what it would be at the moment. That would be nice. One of the factors that’s interesting to look at is the high end users of Internet bandwidth at this point of time are using 10,000 times the bandwidth of the normal — of the low-end Internet user. So there’s a vast discrepancy. And what is going to happen is more of us are going to move to this bigger group, the 10,000 — 10,000 times normal usage pattern of Internet usage, and this will happen more and more as particularly in developing countries. So I don’t think we will have anything like 6 times. We might be looking at 60,000 times the current capacity is needed. I would say conservatively we are definitely looking at 10,000 times the current capacity by 2028. That has a number of ramifications for the way we do things. I mentioned video. We ever not just talking about the recreational video and YouTube downloads, we are talking medical video, the high-image conferencing which allows me to participate from Australia. These sort of things are all part of this too. This creates a number of issues. One of the issues here is shared infrastructure. Is everybody going to roll out, ever telco, every ISP, going to roll out parallel infrastructure to across every country to try and do this or are we going to look at shared infrastructure models to create efficiency and to create this global network which we need. How are we going to cope with this vastly bigger issue?

And what’s this going to look like? Let me give you a couple of ideas. First of all, we are looking at the mobile Internet to a very large degree. And as I say, the dominant use will be mobile. Now, back in 2008, the mobile device was a strange hybrid. It used non-Internet standards when it connected by voice, but some of them did, but in fact some of them, the cheaper ones went over to what is called Internet standards to use this and then there was Internet standards for dial-up and other standards being introduced and there was quite a bit of mess. Now, I think this eventually, to deal with the expansion of all of this, led rise to the new standards institution which was created in about 2010 which was the IETFTU. The IETFTU looked to harmonize all the standards which were going on in the Internet area and telephony area to create this big globally connected network. The major work of the IETFTU was the workshop which was trying to reduce the number of standards to less than 10,000. And this was consuming a lot of energy as people started to try to get this to a workable number of standards. However, there was the new organization which has just arisen and I ask you to think about how strong it was and this is the III. This is the Internet intersect initiative. This was sort of like the WWW. They figured that the IETFTU were never going to cope. The IETFTU was far too old, far too staid. The IETFTU didn’t get it, and a lot of innovators have moved to the III. The III was looking at a clean-slate approach, and it had taken place, and many of the users were starting to use the III standards and the new III network. The III network had all these wonderful applications and became the platform for innovation because the other platform had got to the stage where innovation was becoming more and more difficult. And some of the people there remembered the thoughts of Robert Kahn at the IGF way back in 2007 who started to say the Internet standards and the Internet standards body are starting to ossify and become not capable of handling new areas of innovation. So that was an interesting fact that came in.

So what does our governance look like in 2028? Well, it would defy all known management logic if the current structures in their current form were able to cope. They won’t. By 2028, things will have been changed. Things will be moving very fast. I think the new motto which, because of the pace of all of this adoption, will be if it’s about to break, fix it. And that will be the dominant motto by which we start to look at the emerging governance models. One of the interesting questions around this is going to be jurisdiction. It will still be an issue. And we are living in lawyers’ paradise. Internet is the lawyers’ paradise where various countries all think they have jurisdiction of various thoughts over the same domain name. Where privacy issues and sort of issues as to who should do what are all out there. We have industry self-regulatory regimes start to go spring up, but governments are also, in their own way, setting up their regimes. Do we have an industry self-regulatory regime dealing with most of these issues or do we have a government regime separately? What is the structure that is going to deal with these tremendous emerging issues around intellectual property and privacy and individual rights and human rights and the content that’s offensive in one country but not offensive in another. How are we going to deal with all of those. So as I say, I think we are in lawyers’ paradise as we start to deal with these jurisdiction issues.

That’s about it, I think. I hope 2028 provokes you to start to think. If I just summarize that very quickly, the areas where I think we have issues is how we deal with climate change and environment issues, how we deal with infrastructure, how we deal with access, how we deal with ossification and standards and how we deal with governments as we go forward. Very interesting, and I hope I provoked some thinking.

Intervention in Hyderabad following Chinese Govt comments on root zone

December 10, 2008

What follows is my comments at the Hyderabad meeting of the Internet Governance Forum following the Chinese Government’s comments as regards the root zone authorisation role continued by the US Government .

I again want to take up the comments from the government of China, and to say thank you very much for those comments.  And it is not only governments that will agree with what you’re talking about.
Many of us feel that the root zone authorization process should be changed.  And I think you’ll find support from that broadly in civil society, you’ll find support for that in many other cases as well.
But adding to that, I think we should thank the U.S. government for the role it played taking on this role in the beginning of the Internet.
There was a time when this function was necessary.  There was a time when if this function had not existed, takeover by business would have been something that would have been not in the best interests of the growth of this.  So there should be thanks to the U.S. for the role, the legacy role, I must say, that they did carry when the Internet was very young and needed such a role.
I’m in the country of Mahatma Gandhi, and I do know what Mahatma Gandhi would say about a foreign government continuing to carry a role when things have grown up and we want to do it differently now.  Where there will be difference is what should happen instead of this unilateral control mechanism.
Most of us in civil society would like to see this carried on as a — perhaps a function of ICANN, which gives us reasonable multistakeholder input.
So, in fact, we can look at that particular function as absolutely unnecessary.
If ICANN has made a decision, having consulted on a multistakeholder basis, there is no need for any authority to override that decision, because everybody has been consulted.
So, yes, I would definitely agree with the government of China, this is an issue.  We should discuss it.  Change is necessary.  But I would see the change is to abandon the legacy function.  It is no longer needed.
Thank you very much.

Mumbai, media, and my thoughts

November 29, 2008

I followed this weeks events in Mumbai more closely than a lot of people – particularly because, on the morning the news broke of the terrorist attacks, I was due to travel to Mumbai and stay in Colaba, where the major attacks took place. I re-routed at considerable expense – havving discovered a clause in my travel insurance that excluded terrorist events.

That being said, a couple of obesrvations should be made.

Firstly, many more Indians died than Westerners. They died in an attack that singled out Westerners. They died trying to protect the rest of us from this act. Whatever we might say, the Indian people made a great sacrifice trying to stop this – and considering how many westerners were there at the time, did remarkably well. Let’s not forget that.

Secondly, the part played by Internet media, and here we can single out Twitter, was without precedent. The mainstream media followed Twitter for leads, citizen reporters provided a great deal of meaningful and important information. Although, as a friend pointed out, we have been able to watch citizen media playing a major role since the Glasnost era attacks on Russian parliament, the difference here is that now the mainstream media looked to alternative media for leads.

And thirdly – as long as we have a war on terror we will have more terror. The answer to what we have just witnessed is not more troops in Afghanistan or Pakistan, retaliation, blaming, or escalated religious rhetoric. We would do better to reflect on the factors at work in our current world that lead to the escalation if violence in certain groups and why they feel so angry about the west. There just might be something that needs to be understood here!

The Transboundary Internet – coping with new realities

November 17, 2008

At the Internet Governance Forum meeting in Hyderabad I will be chairing a workshop entitled – “The Transboundary Internet – Jurisdiction, Control, and Sovereignty”. I am delighted to be working with very knowledgeable panelists here including.

  • Meryem Marzouki – European Digital Rights (EDRI), Europe & National Centre
    for Scientific Research (CNRS) – Univ. Pierre et Marie Curie, France
  • Philippe Boillat- Director General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs, Council of Europe
  • James Love – Director, Knowledge Ecology International
  • Bret Fausett – Intellectual Property and Internet attorney, Adorno Yoss
  • William J. Drake – Centre for International Governance, Graduate Institute of
    International and Development Studies – Geneva
  • Rishi Jaitly, South Asia Government Affairs Manager, Google Inc.

Our rationale was stated as follows.

“The Internet crosses the boundaries of all nations and raises some unique transboundary jurisdictional problems. The recent case of a British citizen living in Spain, with Internet servers in the Bahamas, selling holidays to Cuba, and having his domain name impounded by a registrar located in the USA
because it appeared to break the US embargo against Cuba is one recent case in point. Another landmark case was the French-US Yahoo! case in 1999 dealing with sale of nazi memorabilia, but apart from these high profile content cases there are many examples in other areas such as privacy, consumer issues, cybercrime, and intellectual property”.

Let’s mention another example. The Pakistan government ordered a block on offensive content published on YouTube, headquartered in USA, for material by a Dutch politician publicising cartoons from a Danish newspaper which were offensive to many Islamic people. The way the block was implemented took all of You Tube’s global content off line for two hours. I won’t go into the technicalities, but the overkill was recitified and something more locally suitable implemented.

But questions remain as to how such issues should be dealt with. This workshop will discuss the many implications of competing national jurisdictions being projected into a globalized space where multiple normative sources apply, such as political, legal, technical, contractual, and behavioral
regulations. Through practical case studies, this workshop will look at the implications of various approaches to resolving these issues and the implications for Internet governance, international law, national sovereignty, democracy, and human rights and fundamental freedoms. It should be an interesting

The workshop also explores the implications for Internet governance where no structures are in place to deal with emerging issues, and how default unilateral action in the absence of structural alternatives can lead to de facto Internet governance.

All inputs and thoughts welcome! Some detailed discussion of this area is long overdue and it would be good to see attention paid to how we should address these sorts of issues.

Ian Peter as Co-ordinator of Internet Governance Caucus

August 22, 2008

In August 2008 Ian Peter was elected as a Co-ordinator of the Internet Governance Caucus, an international alliance of non government organisations and individuals involved with the United Nations Internet Governance Forum ( He joins Parminder Singh of ICT4Change in India as co-coordinator.

At last! Britain Drops ‘War on Terror’ Label

December 30, 2007

This is great news  as 2008 approaches – finally some common sense and perspective that will restore some balance.

Daily Mail, December 27 2007 –

The words “war on terror” will no longer be used by the British government to describe attacks on the public, the country’s chief prosecutor said Dec. 27.

Sir Ken Macdonald said terrorist fanatics were not soldiers fighting a war but simply members of an aimless “death cult.”

The Director of Public Prosecutions said: ‘We resist the language of warfare, and I think the government has moved on this. It no longer uses this sort of language.”

London is not a battlefield, he said.

“The people who were murdered on July 7 were not the victims of war. The men who killed them were not soldiers,” Macdonald said. “They were fantasists, narcissists, murderers and criminals and need to be responded to in that way.”

His remarks signal a change in emphasis across Whitehall, where the “war on terror” language has officially been ditched.

Officials were concerned it could act as a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda, which is determined to manufacture a battle between Islam and the West.

The term “Islamic terrorist” will also no longer be used. Officials believe it is unhelpful because it appears to directly link the religion to terrorist atrocities.