In my opinion, The Internet Society can and should be the most important advocate for a better Internet. It hasn't been during the seven years I've been active. With US$30 million in annual subsidy from ICANN's delegation of .org registrations, we have far more resources than any other independent organization. 

Instead, ISOC policies have been so uninspiring membership has fallen from 110,000 to the 40,000's. The Internet in this period has more than doubled in size and ISOC has been spending US$millions each year on membership development, communication, etc. (The 110,000 figure is from the ISOC home page early in the year. It probably was inflated, which would be an even bigger problem.)

Sullivan is a respected technologist with experience at the IETF & in ICANN issues. I've had some back and forth over the years; he's well informed on those topics. I'm sure he believes "The Internet is for everyone," the old slogan of the Internet Society.

Former CEO Kathy Brown said ISOC must be, "Global, Independent, Democratic, Open, & Transparent." and a "Bottom-up multistakeholder organization." Kathy is extremely capable and a friend, but couldn't find a way to deliver on her promises. We need strong, independent chapters. On policy, we need concrete proposals that will make a difference and inspire people to join. Here are some ways.

Some ideas that should be easy for everyone to accept. 

First, we should practice what we preach on openness, transparency, and bottom-up decision-making. I can't even find out who our donors are, which should be basic for an advocacy group like ours. It's on record that leaders tried to block the US IGF from discussing any domestic Internet issues because "donors" might object. (That's improved.) There are other examples. The first step should be to disclose our funding sources. I've asked twice. Similarly, we should allow comments on our policy blogs, moderated if necessary. Opinions from Chapter Leaders and active members should be included on the website. The CEO should have regular press conferences.

The most important decision in the last five years in ISOC was made in a closed board meeting and never given a reasonable explanation. At the request of the Board, the Chapters Committee worked nine months on a proposal that chapters should have control of 3% of the ISOC budget for their activities. There were sensible provisions against financial abuse, etc. Currently, ISOC spends three to five dollars "administering" each dollar controlled by the chapters. This is wasteful and obviously discourages involved members. Most chapters have been bleeding members. I have a bridge to sell to anyone who doesn't understand this as the staff retaining control.

Kathy did a good job being accessible in my experience, but all decisions were made top-down with total executive authority. Board oversight was essentially pro forma, spending only thirty minutes to approve the budget. If we can't bring multi-stakeholder to our own procedures, we need to stop advocating it elsewhere.

Second, we should never claim we are "Global" or speak for global Internet users when we effectively exclude the majority of Internet users. ~60% of Internet users are now in the BRICs and the developing world; the gap is increasing by millions every month. Africa has more Internet users than the U.S. has people. India is larger. Yet we have never had a board member from China, now 35% of the Internet. Nixon went to China and I urged Kathy Brown to do likewise. We are forcing a split if China, India, and others don't have reasonable representation. See The Color Of The Net Has Changed

Third, all policy positions should be backed by evidence and not contradict the facts. One circulating now suggests the Internet needs a hands-off government approach to grow and thrive. 60+% of Internet growth from 2012 to 2016 was in countries with strong government control. China, Egypt, and Vietnam have been among the fastest growing. China now has more successful Internet companies than any country other than the U.S. There certainly are viable arguments for backing down government, but anyone who thinks that an absolute priority is an ideologue. Ask Vint who funded the first two decades of the Internet. 

Fourth, we should focus our efforts where we can make a difference rather than just joining a large crowd already working effectively. We shouldn't spend much effort on promoting Congress as the right body to set net neutrality rules; Verizon, AT&T and Comcast have that covered. 

By far the most important standards group affecting the cost of access is the corporate-dominated 3GPP. Many of their decisions have driven up the cost of access; the vendors often support complicated systems that drive up their revenues and everyone else's costs. AT&T & Deutsche Telekom may prefer expensive systems that give them more services to sell. Their peers in Nigeria or Indonesia need lower cost gear, but aren't heard in standards. Vint Cerf and Larry Strickling urged making 3GPP "multistakeholder" but Kathy refused.

We need a policy that brings down the cost of access for the 98% unlikely to be reached by community networks. I've volunteered in Community networks for over 20 years and support ISOC's work. But I don't know a single country where they represent more than 2% after decades. We need to find ways, like promoting Lifeline in the U.S. and opposing Indian telcos trying to take over the distribution of BharatNet. 

The ITU standards could be important and ITU is a  great place to meet people from around the world. But since 2011, we haven't made an important policy proposal at ITU that wasn't also supported by the U.S. government. The U.S. has an effective veto at ITU and has blocked just about everything ISOC has opposed. ITU policy meetings do almost nothing, deadlocked between the U.S. plus allies and the rest of the world. We've actually opposed important proposals from the less developed world, including taking action against cartel-like price of international transit and backhaul. Several African leaders told me that was the most important item keeping the cost of access high. Similarly, unreasonable royalties are driving up the cost of smartphones. Carlos Slim told me three years ago that inexpensive smartphones would connect two billion more people and he's right. ISOC should be in the forefront.

ISOC has so much potential we shouldn't let it stagnate.


The world needs a good news source on Internet and telecom policy. I hope to create one. Catch a mistake? Email me please.  Dave Burstein


Professor Noam's "Many Internets"

Until about 2010, everyone agreed the Net was a "network of networks," not a monolithic entity. There was a central authority, ICANN, keeping track of domain names, but that was a minor administrative function.
Columbia Professor Noam suggests we might be better off accepting that some nations or groups might want to organize their networks differently. It's easy to see demand for an Internet with much more effective filters against material some think harmful to children. (Any 10 year old can easily find porn today. Many do.)
Internet translation is getting better very quickly. You might want an "Internet" that translates everything into your language. Google Chrome translation isn't perfect but I was able to research most of this story on Russian language sites. With a few more years progress, I might welcome an alternate that brings me everything in English, including caching for better performance.
De facto, Internet news is already split, as hundreds of millions only get their news from Facebook. Google AMP pages, including for news, also favor selected parts of the net
Centralizing the DNS doesn't prevent censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. There are many Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists who want to block what they consider blasphemy and limit free speech. See . More from Noam

Russia Orders Alternate Root Internet System
It's actually practical and not necessarily a problem.The Security Council of the Russian Federation, headed by Vladimir Putin, has ordered the "government to develop an independent internet infrastructure for BRICS nations, which would continue to work in the event of global internet malfunctions ... This system would be used by countries of the BRICS bloc – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa." RT
Columbia University Professor Eli Noam and then ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé have both said such a system is perfectly practical as long as there is robust interconnection.
Actually, the battle over ICANN and domain names is essentially symbolic. Managing the DNS is a relatively insignificant task, more clerical than governing. ICANN Chair Steve Crocker pointed out they had very little to do with policy.
Some will claim this is about blocking free speech but that's rhetoric. Russia doesn't need to fiddle with the DNS for censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. The wonders of the Internet will continue so long as the resulting nets" are robustly connected. The ICANN and U.S. policy goal should be to help create that system for interconnection.
I expect contentions that “The Russians are taking over our Internet” and “They are splitting the Internet.” The Internet is a “Network of Networks.” It is not a monolith so what would “splitting” it mean or do?
After the WCIT, China realized that ICANN and the DNS are side issues not worth bothering about. They have been building alternate institutions including the World Internet Summit in Wuzhan and the BRICs conferences.  The Chinese have put their main work where decisions that matter are made. Wireless standards are set by 3GPP, where nothing can be approved without China's consent.
The American battle at ITU is proving to be a historic mistake.
Why does Russia want an independent Internet?
They fear that Western sanctions on Russia could cripple the Russian Net. Communications minister, Nikolay Nikiforov, worries about, "a scenario where our esteemed partners would suddenly decide to disconnect us from the internet." I think that's highly unlikely but Nikiforov points out, “Recently, Russia is being addressed in a language of unilateral sanctions: first, our credit cards are being cut off; then the European Parliament says that they’ll disconnect us from SWIFT."
It makes sense for the Russians to be prepared for such a contingency as the Cold War has been warming up on both sides. "Britain's top military chief Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach just made headlines warning Russian subs "could CRIPPLE Britain by cutting undefended undersea internet cables." Much more

ICANN Continues Excluding Russia & China From the Board
No wonder Russia wants an alternate root. Three years ago, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé promised "a seat at the table" to Chinese Premier Li. ICANN welched and this year added two more Americans.
Almost all the ICANN board is from the U.S. and close allies; only about 4 of the 18 board members are from countries on the other side of the North/South divide in Internet policy.  Claiming ICANN represents the Global Internet is inappropriate. China is 1/3rd of the Internet but has no representation on the board.
I know many of the board members. They are all basically honorable but generally share a strong opinion on North-South issues.
Larry Strickling of the U.S. government knew just what he was doing with the IANA transition. He handed over to a board with similar positions as the U.S. government.
"The system is unsustainable while it excludes half the world," I have been saying since 2012. More, including the transcript of Fadi's statements,

Sorry, Ajit Pai: Smaller Telcos Did Not Reduce Investment After NN Ruling
Pai justifies his NN choice with the claim, "The impact has been particularly serious for smaller Internet service providers." #wrong (Actually, NN has minimal effects on investment, up or down, I’m convinced. Competition, new technology, customer demand and similar are far more important.)
The two largest suppliers to “smaller ISPs” saw sales go up. Adtran's sales the most recent nine months were $540M, up from $473M the year before. 2016 was $636M, 2015 $600M. Calix the last nine months sold $372M, up from $327M. The full year 2016 was $459M, up from $407M in 2015. Clearfield, a supplier of fiber optic gear, was up 8% in sales in the smaller ISPs.
There is nothing in the data from others that suggests an alternate trend. Anyone could have found this data in a few minutes from the company quarterly reports.
The results in larger companies are ambiguous. I can "prove" capex went up or went down by selecting the right data. The four largest companies' capex - two/thirds of the total - went up from $52.7B in 2015 to $55.7B in 2016. The result remains positive after making sensible adjustments for mergers and acquisitions. That's as close to "proving" that NN led to increased spending as the facts chosen to prove the opposite.
Actually, whether capex went up or down in 2016 tells us almost nothing about the choice on neutrality. Everyone knows a single datapoint could be random or due to other causes. Much more, including the source of the errors

Elders Bearing Witness: Vint, Timbl, & Many More
Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Wozniak and more than a dozen true Internet pioneers wrote Congress to protect Neutrality. The best Congress money can buy didn't listen but I wanted to reproduce their letter.
I hope they are wrong believing "is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create." My take is the impact will be moderate in the short run.
From the letter:
We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood. ... The FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint comment signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017.
Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically-incorrect proposed Order ... More, including the full list,