[discuss] Governmental participation (Was: Problem definition 1, v5)

John Curran jcurran at istaff.org
Fri Jan 24 20:27:15 UTC 2014

On Jan 24, 2014, at 9:17 AM, Jeanette Hofmann <jeanette at wzb.eu> wrote:

> GAC traumatization should make us ask what can be learned from this 'architectural' failure.


> Having governments participate as individual experts may work in specific contexts such as the IETF but I don't think it can be generalized. One of the differences between IETF and IG matters is that we the structure we are discussing here is expected to create binding solutions and cannot just delegate the question of acceptance and compliance to the market.

There are associations of private actors that create "effectively binding" 
solutions all the time, and do not require any explicit or unique interface 
with governments, instead governments participate just as any other party in
the development dialogue (to the extent that they perceive a public interest)

If you've ever used a USB connector, you've benefited from the work of the
USB Implementors Forum...  everything from connectors to signaling to power
levels is set by that trade association.  The demands of interoperability
have made it fairly compelling to aim for very high levels of compatibility 
with their specifications, although there is nothing preventing someone from 
doing otherwise as long as they don't misrepresent consumers or use marks of 
the association.

Similarly, there is a global registry of Internet Protocol addresses (this 
global registry is run by the RIRs and IANA at request of the IETF) and 
jointly coordinated to provide for uniqueness of assignments)  One can 
configure equipment with any IP addresses that you wish (and this does
happens quite a bit privately in some organizations), but you are likely 
to find it convenient to make use of globally-coordinated IP addresses if 
you wish easy interoperability with others on the Internet.  

In general, there are no legally binding obligations to make use of either
of these systems, but the demands of interoperability (and pressures of 
the marketplace) create the necessary motivation for mutual cooperation.

There may be need for legally-binding obligations to use outputs of trade
associations, but these should be based on the application of clearly 
recognized public policy principles which are adopted by normal lawmaking
or regulatory processes.

For example, if there is a rash of fires breaking out because of poorly
engineered "knock off" USB chargers, a country might decide that it is 
necessary to prevent sale of non-compliant devices (out of public safety
concerns.)  This is the type of discussion that may involve a wide 
number of parties, including fire safety officials, electronics industry
folks, etc.  Such a conversation with have little to do with the existing
technical standards, but instead would end focusing on the public policy 
aspects that might mandate their use, market implications, imputed costs
to consumers, etc.  Conflation of truly binding outcomes (which should be 
based on public policy requirements determined via traditional national 
lawmaking processes) and things that are just effectively binding (due 
to interoperability pressures) is one of the major contributing factors 
in confusion during Internet governance dialogues.

With respect to the organizations that perform Internet identifier 
coordination (e.g. ICANN, RIRs), I do see value in having government 
engagement mechanisms, but it is in their informational and collaboration
role; places where governments can be informed of the various coordination 
policy discussions which are underway and allow for mutual consideration 
of potential intersections with public policy mandates.  In some cases,
individual governments will decide that there may be no action needed
with respect to a discussions, others they may monitor, or even inform
of existing mandates and regulations that the community should be aware
(e.g. Data privacy directives.)  To the extent that there is desire to 
set new _binding_ obligations beyond what is technically necessary for 
interoperability, it is not at all clear that such discussions belong
in the Internet identifier coordinating organizations (as opposed to 
a matter for traditional lawmaking in each government.)


Disclaimer: My views alone.

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