ISOC has a $30M annual subsidy and should be the most effective advocate for Internet users. Kathy Brown has just resigned and I wrote the note here to ISOC. Folks

Kathy has long been one of the most skilled advocates in D.C., at the FCC, Verizon, and the Internet Society. She is also a decent and generous person. She always worked hard and well. There will soon be many eloquent words about her abilities and personality. They are well-deserved.

I'm putting out a call for other members to speak up on this list to "frame the question."

These are my ideas but I want to hear yours.

Finding a new CEO gives us an opportunity to work on the most important problems of ISOC:

That we believe in a multi-stakeholder process but don't implement it ourselves. For the last five years, all decisions have been top down from a hierarchical staff. During that period, about half our chapters effectively disappeared. This has long been confirmed by postings on this list and the experience of the members. So the first requirement for a new leader must be demonstrated experience with a strong bottoms-up organization.

That we need to strengthen the chapters and give them enough authority and funding to grow. In the long run, the strength of ISOC must come from active members and chapters. The $30M from .org registrations has allowed us to hire a large and expensive staff. We can't count on that and need strong members. There is no accurate count, but many, probably most, chapters have not substantially added active members in the last five years despite our spending $millions every year. When the board rejected the chapters proposal, worked on carefully for over a year, in a secret session, many of our best members were discouraged. The new leader must be someone who has demonstrated the courage and wisdom to share the work of an organization with all members.

That our leadership reflect both sides of the international split between the U.S., Europe + allies and what I will carefully call "the group of 77." As U.S. Ambassador Phil Verveer said at the WCIT, "We must build bridges."

Two-thirds of the world supported proposals at the ITU that were refused by the U.S., who "walked out" of the WCIT. The BRICs and allies are now a solid majority of world Internet users and the gap is growing rapidly. All five of our top policy people are from the U.S. and Europe and overwhelmingly support the policy of the traditionally powerful nations.

Can anyone name major issues in the last 5 years where ISOC took a stand that was strongly opposed by the U.S. government?

The U.S. is right about some issues but wrong about others, especially international issues that could bring down the cost of access. A few giant companies have enormous power and profits from the net. We have opposed, for example, plans to require the multinationals (not all American) to pay taxes where they do business and to charge reasonable royalties.

This is not a call to choose a leader by country or birth. The divide is often called North/South or rich/poor but there are many in the rich countries of the North who understand the issues of the poor in the South. This is a call to choose someone who is not firmly committed to either point of view. We need leadership that does not automatically align with U.S. policy.

That while we aspire to be global and speak for Internet users worldwide, ~half the world is effectively unrepresented at ISOC. In particular, one-third of the Internet is Chinese. We have no chapters in China and none of our ~20 board members are Chinese. We do not exclude many other countries with governments we don't like. Groups like 3GPP and GSMA understand that ignoring China is a mistake. The result, as Constance noted here, is that the BRICs are building their own institutions. It just won't work to exclude half the world from ISOC. At minimum, we should take the word "global" out of our promotion until we actually are global. We need someone with the courage of a "Nixon goes to China" moment to break from the exclusions of the past.

That we do so much inefficiently we do not have the resources for more effective action. We spend something like 5X overseeing the funds administered by the chapters. We pay our top executives 2-4 times what public interest advocates expect. Our CEO makes twice as much as the U.S. President. She comes from a world of D.C. advocates with salaries going up to $16M (David Cohen.) We need someone with experience working with organizations where most people do not make more than 2X the average wage.


This means that the search committee have 1/4th or more people chosen by the membership. That at least the short list of candidates be public and discuss their positions and goals widely. (This is not unusual at U.S. universities, where prospects for President often have extensive campus visits.) That the selection committee reflect both sides of the international divide on Internet policy. Although I'm actually on a U.S. State Department committee, my feelings on the North/South issues are so strong I shouldn't join.

Requiring policy experience makes sense, because we do so much advocacy. But we shouldn't expect that to be "Internet Governance" policy because the traditional institutions are mostly folks who see things the old way.

Requiring administrative experience also makes sense. I would be unqualified because I've never run an organization larger than about 15 employees. That experience must be in an organization where the members/chapters/lower paid people have a role in organization decisions.


Unfortunately, we have no qualified candidates in house. Sally Wentworth has never managed an organization like this. Todd Tolbert doesn't have policy experience.

Raúl Echeberría apparently wants the job but would be a disaster because he's alienated most of the chapters with his attitude. You can see that from the 95 mostly angry responses on this list to his attempt to take more control over chapters. He rejected a request from North American chapters to have a role in the choice of the Regional Director and refused to give a reason why we couldn't. He decided not to take action when the U.S. government blocked our funding of an Iranian Fellow to IGF, although we almost certainly could have solved that. (Sally has sat at the right hand of the U.S. Ambassador and given him very strong support. They almost certainly would have expedited the request if she asked.)

Most importantly, Raúl accepted the closed meeting that rejected the unanimous proposal from the Chapters Committee. I've never heard a sensible explanation. Letting Chapters allocate 3% of our budget still hasn't happened. Letting chapters decide whether to use travel funds for the IGF or an Internet event of the African Union is not radical or unreasonable. He doesn't work in accord with the goals of ISOC.

We should look hard for a different candidate from Latin America.


Judging by who gets hired, we've never done a good job of candidate outreach. (5 out of 5 of our top policy people are from the U.S. and Europe and generally agree with one point of view.)

So we need a competent outreach committee, funded to do things like translate the call into many languages. I'm over-volunteered, but will serve and not expect payment. We need volunteers from China, India, Latin America, and Africa.


These are my ideas, informed by decades of working with non-profits. Let's hear yours.

In particular, I hope the independent board members speak now about what they think is important.

Dave Burstein

Edited 11/30 to remove an adjective about Raul as subjective. Better to demonstrate my opinion with facts.

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,