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The Internet for the Internet
By Scott Bradner
As well reported elsewhere the first draft of the US Government's proposal for internationalizing and institutionalizing the management, some people would say governance, of some of the things that keep the Internet going was released at the end of January. The proposal, titled A Proposal to Improve Technical Management of Internet Names and Addresses (http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/domainname/dnsdrft.htm ), is expected to be revised after a comment period.
The draft proposal is somewhat sketchy and lacks specifics about a number of aspects that will need to be detailed in any final plan. This is good. If it were more detailed it would be hard to get people to focus on the concepts, they would be too busy finding things to disagree with in the minutia.
The concepts are important. This proposal would turn much of the management of the technical aspects of the Internet over to the Internet. The basic structure is based in a US not-for-profit corporation but the board of the corporation would be heavily international and heavily biased to include the organizations that have made the Internet a success along with the organizations that depend on the Internet. There would be no continuing US Government, or other national government control of the technical management aspects of the Internet. That is not to say that governments will not continue to try and be involved in commerce, security and content policies for the Internet. This is a big step but one that is vital if the Internet is to escape the technological lethargy that has personified the traditional telecommunications world.
Half the board would be filled with representatives of Internet users, specifically including individual end users and not-for-profit organizations along with commercial users. The other half would be appointed by groups representing the IP Address registries, the domain name registries and registrars, and the Internet standards creation process as exemplified by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).
The new orginazation would help define and oversee rules for the creation of new top level domains, the root nameservers, and the allocation of IP Addresses.
The proposal talks a lot about domain names and there are some real problems with the proposal in this area. The proposal seems to support for-profit ownership of top level domains, the very kind of monopoly that lead to the mess we are now in. It also hints but does not specifically say that all new domain name registries would be able to register in all non-country code top level domains, including .com, .net and .org, this is not a small detail.
This proposal will have some significant opponents. I expect the traditional telecommunications industry will try and do through rule setting what they could not do in the real world which is to play a real role in the Internet. Some libertarians will question the authority of the US Government to play a role here. People who saw an opportunity to create a monopoly on some type of domain names see their pot of gold evaporating.
This proposal is a watershed and the thrust vector is in the right quadrant.
disclaimer: As part of the IETF and an IP Address group I may be impacted but the comments are mine, nor are they Harvard's (which is suspicious of governments two thirds its age).