ICANN 320Actually 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." (RT, the Russian government-funded news service.) RT believes "This system would be used by countries of the BRICS bloc – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa." 

Expect dramatic claims about Russia's plan for an alternate root for the BRICs not under Western control. 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.

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.

Noam has pointed out that "multiple Internets" might actually be a good thing. Fadi agreed that this could work but worried about who would protect that "robust interconnection."

Some are already discussed this as "splitting the Internet," with the (probably mistaken) implication that would destroy the net and be a major human rights issue. The U.S. walked out of the ITU, the U.N. organization for the Internet, over issues like this. (I've asked some of the likely people for comments and will pass them on verbatim.) 

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 biggest obstacle to the Russian proposal is that China may not be interested. After the WCIT, they realized that ICANN and the DNS are side issues not worth bothering about. They de-emphasized the ITU because the Americans made it obvious they would block anything they didn't like. Instead, they have been building alternate institutions including the World Internet Summit in Wuzhan and the BRICs conferences.  Tim Cook of Apple and Sundar Pichai of Google paid homage to the Chinese in Wuzhan. 

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. In 5G, "The Chinese hold more than 30 key positions in standards organizations, with 23% of the voting power, 30% of the manuscripts, and 40% of the lead projects." They are leaders at IEEE, where Wi-Fi standards are set. Anywhere the future is being designed, I see many Chinese, from SDN to Autonomous cars.

The American battle at ITU is proving to be a historic mistake. Making a few compromises at ITU would have kept the institution central. The U.S. and allies would continue in a strong role even if they shared some power with others. The result: new centers of focus where the U.S. government has very little impact. 

Why does Russia want an independent Internet?

Russia’s 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."

U.S. Senators have called for much stronger sanctions. U.S. FCC Commissioner Mike O'Reilly suggested defunding the ITU unless the U.S. gets more power. (He doesn't realize the U.S. already has an effective veto over any ITU action, but that's another story.)

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." See https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5142433/russia-cripple-the-uk-internet-cables-sea-bed/ . "National Security Plan Hints at Return to Cold War Footing," the NY Times headlines. 

Why the "splitting the Internet meme was invented

ICANN's American contract became a symbol of the "control of the Internet." Actually, ICANN has less real power than France Telecom/Orange, Google, Alibaba, or Facebook. But as the center of the Internet moved South, those countries believed they should have a share of control. The Americans and friends resisted change, although the most important opposition was the U.S. security organizations. 

Many folks in good faith saw this as a conflict over freedom of speech, including Vint Cerf and Kathy Brown of ISOC. They were the public face of the dispute, but the real power came from the U.S. government. The main battle was at the ITU WCIT in Dubai, which I attended. So did 14 representatives of U.S. three letter agencies. (NSA, CIA, HSA, DOD.) They weren't there to protect freedom of speech; their mission was to protect the ability of the NSA to do what the NSA does so well. 

U.S. delegation lead at WCIT Larry Strickling explained to me the battle was necessary "unless you want Russia or China to take over the Internet." (Anyone objective would realize Larry, generally a good guy, was offbase. They would have been happy with minor concessions but we gave them nothing.)

A multi-million dollar campaign resembled U.S. political campaigns. It found emotional issues that would win them support and hammered them home worldwide. Political pros led by U.S. State totally dominated the media. The folks at the ITU tried to answer back with facts but were totally out-classed as campaigners.

One theory they invented and propagated was that collecting any taxes from companies like Google would result in them boycotting Africa, which would cripple education. Google was not going to abandon a billion potential viewers because of modest taxation. 

They also circulated everywhere a picture of Secretary-General Tourè shaking hands with the President of one of his largest members and spread the rumor he was a Russian stooge. While Hamadoun did his graduate work in Russia, he was an ardent capitalist. He saw Russia during the era of stagnation and was not impressed. In fact, he wanted to do his Ph.D. in Canada but couldn't get a scholarship. Russia was the only country that offered a scholarship. He said the polite things diplomats say about a powerful country, but in private was very clear.

There are hundreds of "Internet governance" professionals concentrating on ICANN and things like IGF. Some are well paid; most are of good faith. Many are more interested in access and getting everyone connected and don't realize they should be working elsewhere.

The picture is the ICANN board in 2016. The Internet doesn't look like this anymore. 

Sources: I went to google.ru, searched Internet, and found this story. Few have picked it up in English except the Russian RT service.

https://www.rt.com/politics/411156-russia-to-launch-independent-internet/ 

https://www.rt.com/news/188960-internet-blackout-russia-counter/

The story  began at https://www.rbc.ru/technology_and_media/28/11/2017/5a1c1db99a794783ba546aca

I found more at https://daily.afisha.ru/technology/7543-alternativnyy-internet-iz-rossii-chto-eto-takoe-i-chem-on-nam-grozit/

The ITU, ICANN, and WCIT reporting are mine or from the organization's websites.

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

Latest

Professor Noam's "Many Internets" http://bit.ly/ManyNets

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 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/21/nyregion/ultra-orthodox-jews-hold-rally-on-internet-at-citi-field.html . More from Noam http://bit.ly/ManyNets

Russia Orders Alternate Root Internet System http://bit.ly/RussiaDNS
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 http://bit.ly/RussiaDNS

ICANN Continues Excluding Russia & China From the Board http://bit.ly/CEOPromises
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,http://bit.ly/CEOPromises

Sorry, Ajit Pai: Smaller Telcos Did Not Reduce Investment After NN Ruling http://bit.ly/SorryPai
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 http://bit.ly/SorryPai

Elders Bearing Witness: Vint, Timbl, & Many More http://bit.ly/VintTim
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, http://bit.ly/VintTim