[discuss] ICANN policy and "Internet Governance"

Andrew Sullivan ajs at anvilwalrusden.com
Fri Jan 3 13:38:16 UTC 2014

On Fri, Jan 03, 2014 at 01:03:35AM -0500, Avri Doria wrote:
> I do not see the problem with the term.  It is not as if it had any
> previous meanings or any previous usage baggage.

The part of Brian's paper that I strongly agreed with is that the term
for many appears to be a catch-all for "anything related to the
Internet about which I feel strongly Something Should Be Done".  I
understood him to be arguing that it's not an actionable category, and
I agree with him.  It sounds like you have a list, though.

> It is true that not all of the issues being categorized under Ig,
> are directly linked.  Similarly, all the issues listed under
> technical coordination are not necessarily directly linked, yet we
> see enough similarities between the issues and the architecture they
> relate to, that we call them all technical coordination.  I would
> argue that Internet policy issues have similar elements that bring
> them into the same category. Ig defines a category. not a single
> thing.

I certainly don't think that categories are useless, so in principle I
would agree with this.  On the other hand, I listed a pretty wide
array of items (and I could come up with more; child pornography and
protection of children were two prominent categories at the IGF as
near as I could tell, for instance).  Some of these seem to me to be
at least possibly related.  There might be common policy issues across
naming and numbering (presumably, that's why they both ended up at
ICANN, after all).  Neither of these two, of course, need any new
"governance" forum at all.  We have at least one, and frequently more
than one.

There is conceivably a link between numbering and the problems of
intra-country or intra-regional peering (though I personally think
this usually just a matter of lousy national telco regulations coupled
with poor local infrastructure).  There might even be an argument to
be made that the money to pay for some of that infrastructure ought to
come from parties other than the relevant countries/local communities
in question (perhaps on the grounds of financial resources).  These
issues, if they are governance issues, perhaps need a home, though I
guess I don't understand why the IGF isn't the home.  For peering
issues are by definition voluntary and physically located, so I don't
get why we need any decision-making body for that.  Why isn't that an
issue of the relevant parties working together on their own?

Some of the other topics -- international crime and so on -- are only
"Internet" issues in that they happen to be using the Internet as an
enabling technology.  Apart from a discussion forum to inform national
lawmaking, what is needed here?  If nothing, again, why isn't the IGF

Finally, the actions of national intelligence services (including but
certainly not limited to the NSA) are, I submit, not "Internet" issues
at all, but international government issues in the simplest sense.
This is what diplomatic channels are for.  The US or Chinese effects
on Internet traffic (to pick two cases we definitely know about)
subvert apparently innocent international or domestic communications
of other countries' citizens.  Why does this need a special forum?

You'll note I keep asking why above.  This is the same question I've
asked before: what problem is some new body supposed to be solving
that isn't already covered?

> Then there are techno-policy problems, such as the inability to map
> one variant name to another that leak into the social sphere.

I'm sorry, but that is _not_ a techno-policy problem.  That's an "I
want a pony" problem.  To the extent that problem can ever be solved,
ICANN now has a mechanism to cope with it (full disclosure: I wrote
much of it).  To the extent people are unhappy with that solution,
their problem actually cannot be solved.  What people actually want
there is for the various Tower of Babel-like stories to contain no

> NSA, results in some degree of policy linkage: how do we trust the
> US to be a good steward when it obviously doesn't really know what
> that means, at least not in terms others can accept.  

That's ok with me.  But then again, why does this need a new body?
Why isn't that a reform-of-ICANN topic?

I'm not trying to be difficult.  It's just that, ever since these
discussions got underway, I have been having a hard time understanding
not just what we are talking about, but to what end.  I think if the
goal is some action, then we need to be working on some actionable
category, and I don't know how "Internet governance" is that.

Best regards,


Andrew Sullivan
ajs at anvilwalrusden.com

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