[discuss] Why oversight? (was Re: Opportunity for input on the development process forIANAoversight transition plan)

parminder parminder at itforchange.net
Wed Apr 2 12:47:51 UTC 2014

On Wednesday 02 April 2014 05:24 PM, Stephen Farrell wrote:
> There's a lot in parminder's mail that's outside my area
> of expertise and with which I might or might not (dis)agree,
> but just one comment on one word...
> On 04/02/2014 11:58 AM, parminder wrote:
>> I read mails here, for instance one from Stephan Farell, on 31st March,
>> that IETF is *not* meant to take into account public policy concerns in
>> any systematic way. IETF and other such technical processes are not
>> developed to understand political equality, representation, democratic
>> legitimacy, and such things. They are based on very different kinds of
>> principles which may well be best for their delegated technical functions.
> "Delegated" isn't right there IMO. AFAIK people participate in the
> IETF because they and (for most) their current sponsors want that
> to happen. And the IETF is relevant because it does a good job so
> many many more people than actively participate choose to use its
> output.

A political community is based on an implied 'social contract' which is 
often a political fiction, although very useful, even indispensable, to 
construct political legitimacy, This implied social contract is mostly 
coded in a political constitution, which although mostly 'real' could 
also be fictional, as in the case of UK.

I understand that at present we are trying to understand and form 
consensus on different global governance roles  vis a vis the Internet, 
based on some, I understand or at least hope, undisputed political 
principles of democracy, rule of law and the such. We also have to build 
upon some specific characteristics of the Internet technology and 
historical sites and means of its technical and other forms of governance.

In this attempt to appropriately address the current 'constitutional 
moment' with regard to the technical/operational governance of the 
Internet , we may need to employ some political concepts and 
corresponding 'political fictions' . In that sense, though no one at 
present delegates technical standards making role to the IETF (although 
it is delegated by the US gov in the case of ICANN), it is normally 
accepted that technical functions of public importance, although often 
undertaken by expert technical bodies, must be subject to larger public 
oversight through appropriate institutional forms. It is in this sense 
that the political/ public administration concept of 'delegated 
authority' was used by me, which is admittedly fictional in the present 
context (it is simply hoped/ imagined that IETF does its work as per 
wider public interest, and per the public policies developed to that 

The fact that, using the new Internet context, IETF crowd-sources 
expertise in a very effective way, which enables it to undertaken its 
technical functions in a much better manner, does not obviate the need 
for public oversight. Expertise of whatever kind does not replace 
political legitimacy, and we know, and, Stephen, you will agree, that 
IETF almost exclusively deals with expertise and technical merit.


> That's maybe just nit-picking on a single word that wasn't meant in
> that way, (I'm not sure) but I don't know of any entity that tells
> the IETF that we are now allowed to e.g. address routing protocol
> security and I don't think there ought be any such entity.
> It would be a bit weird if the IETF decide to write RFCs about
> fish farming and I don't lose sleep worrying that that'll happen
> but if a bunch of fish farmers turned up on a mailing list then
> they'd be listened to at least to the point where the IETF
> determined if there's some work relevant to the IETF with a
> reasonable probability of success and that some other body
> isn't a better place for such work to happen. (And I know folks
> who have worked on how to layer IP and RFC5050 on top of
> underwater acoustic modem based networks so something along
> those lines could happen:-)
> S.

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