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

Jeanette Hofmann jeanette at wzb.eu
Sat Jan 25 16:50:33 UTC 2014

Thank you John, for this detailled response. I find myself agreeing with 
most of what you said. I also like the example of the poorly engineered 
USB charger that you used to illustrate a case where standard setting 
and various public policy issues (in terms of legal requirements or 
other types of public responsibilities) intersect.

I guess what you are indirectly saying is that we should discuss the 
role and type of participation of governments in concrete terms instead 
of remaining on a basis of abstract principles. Makes sense to me :-)

As far as domain names are concerned, internet identifier coordination 
seems to affect trademark rights and would thus justify a role for 
governments beyond a mere informational and collaborative status or do I 
missunderstand you here?

When it comes to IP addresses and the RIRs, one could argue that a more 
active involvement of governments could have accelerated the deployment 
of IPv6 addresses. I mention this example because I ask myself whether 
issues of effectiveness/efficieny should also play a role when we talk 
about public-private collaboration in IG.


Am 24.01.14 21:27, schrieb John Curran:
> 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.
> Indeed.
>> 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.)
> FYI,
> /John
> Disclaimer: My views alone.

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