Perhaps the most contentious point to come out of the International Forum on the White paper (IFWP) last week was whether or not those attending were a representative sample of the internet, commonly referred to these days as the stakeholders. The issue was raised early on and it quickly became apparent that it would be […]
Perhaps the most contentious point to come out of the International Forum on the White paper (IFWP) last week was whether or not those attending were a representative sample of the internet, commonly referred to these days as the stakeholders. The issue was raised early on and it quickly became apparent that it would be a major bone of contention, because if it could not be agreed that the 200 or so people that attended over the two days represented the stakeholders, then anything they agreed was pretty meaningless. That feeling was echoed by internet veteran Einar Stefferud when he said, nothing that comes out of here is a decision. There were six working groups, three on each day. In summing up the activities of workshop ‘B’ on the first day, which was charged with looking into the board of directors and the membership of the non-profit entity to run the DNS, group reporter Christopher Ambler, who was at the conference representing himself, reported that the group decided that at some point you need to define who the stakeholders are and…for now at least, we are the stakeholders. That triggered many people to address the microphone at the meeting and request that some sort of technological solution be found quickly to include those not able to physically attend the meeting. But nothing was agreed. Jason Hendeles – who runs a Canadian internet service provider – proposed on the first day that there be a two week period following the meeting for people to log on to some sort of list or web site and from the group at the meeting and the group online, a limited stakeholder group be defined. He tried to put the motion to a vote, but was met with a total lack of interest. That prompted Steve Bellovin of AT&T Corp to come to the mike: This group has got a very serious issue of legitimacy, he said. we have no a prior mechanism for legitimacy, we have to get people to buy in, he added. Many people we spoke to that evening expressed a desire for some sort of agreement on whether the debate should continue online, but were resigned to the fact that such an agreement was not going to happen and participants would merely retire to the mailing lists of choice. Bearing in mind the meeting was the IFWP for the Americas (note the plural), perhaps not surprisingly it was dominated by US representatives of companies in the internet infrastructure business. There was a spattering of Canadian ISP interests, but only one representative from South America, Cabase, an ISP trade association from Argentina, who complained to us that issues such as telecommunications deregulation were not being addressed, and one representative from the NIC in Mexico. Users were also under-represented at the IFWP. The Center for Democracy and Technology and the Domain Name Rights Coalition were both represented and actively participated, but that was about the extent of it. CDT’s deputy director Danny Weitzner urged the meeting to reach out to the rest of the internet community, not just the commercial interests. But in a meeting dominated by commercial interests, with a steering committee dominated by ISP and their trade associations, it was never going to happen.