At the start of the first day of the International Forum on the White Paper, senior presidential adviser on internet issues, Ira Magaziner, wanted to inject a bit of Washington-style real politik into a meeting that brings together so many factions of the internet community, many of which have been at each other’s throats over […]
At the start of the first day of the International Forum on the White Paper, senior presidential adviser on internet issues, Ira Magaziner, wanted to inject a bit of Washington-style real politik into a meeting that brings together so many factions of the internet community, many of which have been at each other’s throats over the past couple of years. The IFWP in Reston Virginia, is the first of a number of gatherings attempting to lay the groundwork for the establishment of a non-profit corporation to manage the internet’s domain name system (DNS). Such a corporation was called for in government green and white papers, published in January and June respectively, which will result in the US government eventually withdrawing from internet governance altogether. Magaziner, giving a short keynote to kick off proceedings, said the attendees face two challenges. The first is to leave behind the animosities…some of which are quite severe that have built up over the past few years; while the second is to come up with a group of incorporators or a corporation that will have the support of all stakeholders, both in the US and internationally. There is three months left until a government deadline of September 30, at which point the government wants some sort of interim board to be in place to run the DNS, the navigation infrastructure of the internet that enables users to type in www.ibm.com from any browser and reach IBM’s web site. But, warned Magaziner, if you can’t get your act together [by September 30]…we will try to do it with other governments. The specter of that will hopefully give you motivation to get your act together, he said. September 30 is when US government contracts with Network Solutions Inc and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority end. NSI runs the current DNS system, looking after the .com, .net and .org name spaces exclusively, while IANA, run by Jon Postel at the University of Southern California, works with the three regional numbering authorities, assigning blocks of IP addresses and the management of country-specific top-level domains. The work of both those organizations will become the responsibility of the non-profit corporation come October 1, although the US government won’t withdraw completely until it is sure the DNS is stable. Drawing on his own experience dealing with the DNS for two years and, before that, attempting to drive through President Clinton’s first-term healthcare reforms, on which he worked with Hillary Clinton, Magaziner said, in Washington we learn at times to make peace with people we’ve had terrible feuds with…and people who’ve tried to send us to jail, the latter referring to healthcare, not the DNS. The problem the corporation will have is that unlike the government, it will not be elected by all the internet’s users, as that would be impossible to pull off. But, said Magaziner, while governments have the ultimate fallback, regarding any of their policies, given that they were elected, there are many private non-profit standards bodies around the world that are seen to have legitimacy and that is the model the government is looking for from the DNS corporation. Given that this is the internet, many such ‘corporations’ are likely to spring up, all vying for the chance to manage the DNS. If that happens, the US government will get them in a room and say ‘you’ve got to talk to each other’, said Magaziner talking to reporters after his keynote. The government will insist there is a consensus, but we don’t want to force it ourselves, said Magaziner. Whatever the two-day meeting and those that follow it come up with, it has to be inclusive, inclusive, inclusive, said Magaziner. Following Magaziner’s speech, the meeting broke into three working groups, from which the press was excluded.