Modest request that Touré can easily accept. Just before Busan, Carolina Rossini of Public Knowledge led a set of civil society groups in a letter that makes sensible suggestions for the ITU. It was far more to the point than so many of the U.S. and Russian attempts at provocation. I was happy to sign, alongside EFF, the World Wide Web Foundation, APC, CDT and others. Webcasting more of the event, meeting regularly with civil society, having anonline contribution mechanism for all and opening more meetings are simple, sensible steps. In fact, Hamadoun has been actively working on several of these. The ITU is a body of politicians and isn't perfect, but most of the popular criticism comes from a negative political campaign.

   At WCIT, Harold Feld and others from civil society organized a small caucus. I told a friend at ITU and the next day Hamadoun and the caucus had an informal meeting. There's every reason for them to do more. Several of the recent ITU meetings featured "Informal Expert Groups" that were essentially open to all and proved effective. A platform open to all may be impractical to put together in a few days but is always good. Then, the Internet Society or any friendly government - even the U.S. - could add it to the record. At WCIT, the ITU made available to attendees the complete  registration list including most emails. That means that anyone there, including civil society, has the emails and can reach 80-90% of the attendees more effectively than getting into the conference 

   See you in Busan in weeks 2 & 3.

Open letter to the ITU on transparency of its Plenipotentiary in Busan


TO: Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Dr. Hamadoun Touré
CC: Deputy Secretary-General of the ITU, Mr Houlin Zhao

Dear Secretary-General Touré,

We write to you as a group of civil society organisations who are keen to engage with the important work of the ITU and its upcoming Plenipotentiary Conference.

At various ITU meetings in the recent past, positive steps have been taken to facilitate and encourage the engagement of stakeholders in the work of the ITU and to increase transparency of the organization and its processes. Efforts were made at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), the World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF) and the WSIS+10 Multistakeholder Preparatory Platform (MPP), all of which helped to further increase recognition within the ITU of the importance of opening up its processes more generally.

These moves towards greater openness and inclusivity were also lauded in your speech at the WSIS+10 High Level Event in June 2014: “As the ITU Secretary-General, I’m nonetheless very proud that these two documents have been developed by a bottom up and all inclusive approach, exercising truemultistakeholderism with the highest level of openness.”

The undersigned organizations have been encouraged by this evolution and believe that it is now time – at the ITU Plenipotentiary in Busan and as the ITU nears its 150th birthday – for the organization to do more to demonstrate its commitment to openness and to welcome greater and more diverse participation in its processes from across all stakeholder groups.

We understand that the ITU will be webcasting some of the proceedings of the Plenipotentiary including Plenary Sessions, Plenary Working Group, Committee 5 and Committee 6.  We welcome these commitments and encourage the ITU to webcast all Committee proceedings.

In addition, we encourage the ITU to:

  • Open the Plenipotentiary Plenary and Committee Sessions to on-site observers, regardless of their participation status. This would provide an opportunity for public interest groups and other interested organizations to participate at the Plenipotentiary without the constraints imposed by participation through national delegations.
  • Organize regular briefings for civil society at the Conference. We understand that the ITU is already considering holding briefings with civil society representatives, and welcome this. We encourage the ITU to facilitate such briefings and to use them as an opportunity to share information on the progress of the discussions and negotiations, as well as to solicit civil society feedback on the proceedings.
  • Create an online public contribution platform (as there was at the WCIT) and register such contributions as official Information Documents. Delegations and participants should be encouraged to take such contributions into account during their deliberations.
  • Highlight the benefits of openness and transparency in an effort to formalize greater public access to ITU processes and documentation.

We believe that wider participation and greater openness are critical to enable all stakeholders to deepen their understanding of the ITU’s mandate and role and constructively engage with the important work the ITU does. We urge the ITU to seize the opportunity presented by the Plenipotentiary to take the next steps towards true inclusion and collaboration. We also urge the ITU to continue and strengthen its involvement in global and regional multi-stakeholder forums such as IGFs.

We remain available and committed to collaboration with the ITU Secretary General, the ITU Secretariat, and all other relevant individuals and bodies within the ITU to work towards a more inclusive, transparent and accountable ITU.

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,