[discuss] Time to be more precise about Internet Governance

Brian E Carpenter brian.e.carpenter at gmail.com
Thu Jan 2 19:42:33 UTC 2014


On 03/01/2014 06:59, Milton L Mueller wrote:
> I've finally gotten a chance to read Brian Carpenter's
> contribution to the debate. The article makes some good
> points but unfortunately the author's credibility plummeted
> to zero when he applied his notion of 'technical
> coordination' to a specific instance - ICANN - 

Of course, ICANN is not the only venue for technical
coordination, but it is the most relevant one for this discussion.

> and announced
> flatly that ICANN "has little or nothing to do with
> governance. ICANN administers technical resources..."
> This claim is not only factually incorrect, it makes his
> entire argument self-destruct.
> ICANN is an economic regulator of the domain name industry.
> This is not a debatable proposition. One simply has to
> observe what it does, read its legal and policy outputs, and
> attend its meetings to understand this.

I'm not sure I'd use the word 'regulator' but of course I don't
dispute that ICANN has created the market in vanity gTLDs.

> ICANN licenses registries and registrars and, via its
> contractual licensing authority, it governs their conduct in
> ways that affect privacy rights, trademark rights, control of
> the supply of the resource, the number of competitors in the
> market, the price of services, as well as minor forms of
> technical coordination. This is not pure technical
> coordination, it is the use of technical resources for
> regulatory purposes.
> Yes, Brian, there is a conceptual distinction between
> technical decisions and policy decisions (although engineers
> can only tell you how to optimize given some desired
> objectives, they cannot decide _what_ to optimize, as Brian
> himself seems to recognize).  But I have explained in several
> prior messages how common it is for governance institutions
> to gain control of the administration of technical resources
> in order to regulate conduct or enforce policy. Radio
> spectrum management being the clearest and most obvious
> example, but I could provide dozens of others.

What is a little special about the gTLD market is that it is
entirely artificial; it has no physical need to exist (unlike
the radio spectrum market, which shares out a finite physical
resource). Actually I have always been amazed that people ever
fell for the belief that a gTLD name has value; it's very much
akin to believing in fairies. The closest analogy I can think of
is the vanity plate market.

> For some reason, Brian and others keep ignoring this
> argument, neither refuting it or engaging with it, just
> pretending it does not exist. I am not sure why. I guess it
> does not fit into their worldview. 

It's certainly my opinion that the gTLD market is spurious and
the world would be better off without it. But I don't see it as
deeply important; whether it succeeds or fails won't have any
profound effects as far as I can see, except on the personal
wealth of some individuals. So yes, I do see it as an
administrative matter, subject to normal ethics, rules and
regulations about doing business of course (which is why ICANN
needs good corporate governance).

> But one of the benefits of
> inter-stakeholder dialogue like this is that prejudices and
> fallacies that have credence in, say, the technical community
> can be challenged and exposed as such by other groups.
> Likewise, the technical community can puncture the shared
> delusions of civil society or governments.
> I would like to invite Brian to attend the London ICANN
> meeting. I am an educator, after all. I will give him a free
> guided tour of what really happens at an ICANN meeting. I
> will take him to several constituency meetings in the GNSO,
> to the GAC, the public forums, to working group meetings.
> There, he will learn that 95% of what goes on there is policy
> and governance, and perhaps 5% involves technical
> coordination or discussion.

I don't doubt it for a moment, but it isn't policy and
governance of "the Internet", it's mainly policy and governance
of the vanity name business. (Thanks for the offer, but I won't
be in the Northern Hemisphere in June.)

> The important point here is not that Brian made an incorrect
> assertion, but the significance of this linkage for the
> broader "Internet governance" discussion. The reason we are
> having a debate about Internet governance is that various
> political forces would like to link their  policy objectives
> to the administration of technical resources so that they can
> be controlled and enforced more effectively. Full stop.

Fully agreed.

> The basic division in this struggle is between open,
> decentralized and transnational governance institutions and
> nation-state based institutions.
> You will not preserve or protect and free, open and viable
> Internet by pretending that Internet governance does not
> exist. You will not preserve the independence of the native,
> private sector based internet governance institutions by
> pretending that they only do "technical coordination" and
> that policy is a different and disconnected world. That
> strategy, being based on a fallacy, is unsustainable and will
> only backfire. ICANN  is a perfect example of how it will
> backfire. We have a global policy-making institution. Our
> object should be to make the policies good policies, and to
> facilitate full-fledged representation and participation of
> all affected interests.
> The only serious and honest way to defend ICANN against ITU
> or UN-based governance institutions is to argue that
> bottom-up policy making rooted in voluntary or independent
> associations of individuals is superior to nation-state based
> governance. 

But this is exactly where the consistent failure since 1998 to
separate the technical from the societal issues gets us into
trouble. Attempting to prevent nation-states from having their
own policies on societal issues is futile. Persuading them that
MS stewardship of technical resources is in everybody's best
interests (including the interests of nation states whose
societal policies others might find abhorrent) is the best bet.


> The main reason is that requirement for
> globalized, as opposed to territorial, policy and
> coordination, but can also argue that individuals in these MS
> institutions can represent their own interests more directly
> and more justly than states.
> --MM
> From: discuss-bounces at 1net.org
> [mailto:discuss-bounces at 1net.org] On Behalf Of Jorge Amodio 
> Sent: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 12:39 AM To: Brian E
> Carpenter Cc: discuss at 1net.org Subject: Re: [discuss] Time to
> be more precise about Internet Governance
>> Brian's thesis seems to be that Internet (or Cross-Border
>> Information) Governance is by definition a system that
>> governments must be involved in,
> It's hard to imagine a debate about societal issues that 
> governments are not involved in. I have no difficulty 
> imagining technical administration without governmental 
> involvement. My thesis is that using a grand word like 
> 'governance' to describe technical administration is a source
>  of confused thinking. If a word is understood in different 
> ways by different people, IMHO it's a good idea not to use 
> the word at all.
> Or make it very clear about the context and what you exactly
> mean by using it, like the corporate governance of ICANN does
> not equal Internet Governance.
> -Jorge

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