The following text is copyright 1998 by Network World, permission is hearby given for reproduction, as long as attribution is given and this notice is included.

Internet-based Internet governance

By Scott Bradner

Network World, 6/15/98

It was not as easy as some people had said it would be.

Almost a year ago, the U.S. government started figuring out what to
do about domain names. The government published a request for
comment relating to Domain Name System (DNS) administration,
top-level domain (TLD) creation and related issues, such as the impact
trademarks should have on domain names. The request successfully
resulted in turning up ideas on these issues.

A number of respondents maintained there were easy solutions for the
issues. But the respondents were wrong.

Six months later, the government solicited comments on a draft
proposal, known as the "Green Paper," on how to deal with the DNS
issues as well as a number of other Internet management problems.
The basic proposal was quite good, but a number of the details
evoked a great deal of consternation.

Now - after another six months - the U.S. government has published
its final plan. By removing some of the policy predefinition, the
government has come up with a very good plan.

Like the Green Paper, the final white paper defines an independent,
nonprofit U.S. corporation that will be responsible for a number of
the basic Internet infrastructure functions: setting policy for and
directing allocation of IP address blocks to regional IP number
registries; overseeing the operation of the root name servers;
overseeing policy for the creation of new TLDs; and coordinating the
assignment of Internet technical parameters. These functions are a
combination of operations and policy.

The execution of the policy portions of these functions will be the first
explicit instance of Internet governance, even though the white paper
maintains that it is not defining any such thing. The paper says this
new organization will not displace existing laws but will be defining
policy, and that is a governance function.

Almost all of the Internet's growth has taken place over the past five
years, yet in this very short time, the 'Net has had a profound impact.
The government proposal is an indication of the impact. It is
impossible to imagine a major world government would have had the
vision a decade ago to define nongovernmental governance of such a
vital resource. The traditional way to deal with this type of issue has
been to have a national governmental organization, such as the Federal
Communications Commission, or an international intergovernmental
organization, such as the International Telecommunication Union,
take charge.

This new U.S. government plan hands responsibility for vital policy
development over to the Internet community. It is a big responsibility,
and there will be some challenging times ahead as representation
details are worked out.

There will be legal challenges from people who don't like the idea of a
consensus-based policy development process. I hope the new
organization will be able to deal with the challenges and meet its
obligations to the Internet community.

This is the right thing to do.

Disclaimer: Harvard has no consistent view of governance (its own
or others'), so the above must be my view.