ICANN 320Two of the most powerful men in the world want ICANN to disappear. ICANN and friends are in San Juan partying like it's 1999, thinking Putin is impotent and Trump's NTIA chief, David Redl, should be ignored when he promises to move on retaking control of ICANN.

The semi-official word from San Juan is the main focus of ICANN61 will be whether everyone will be able to hide their name on WHOIS. Currently, only those who pay a little extra for registration are able to hide their names when they register a website. Most of the pornographers and other miscreants have already chosen anonymity and I haven't noticed the Internet collapsing since IANA last fall.

Putin personally ordered his government to "Develop an independent internet infrastructure for BRICS nations." On the independence of ICANN, Trump's Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, is looking for "any possible [mechanism] for reversing it.”any possible [mechanism] for reversing it.”

David Redl at NTIA is tasked with delivering on Trump's campaign rhetoric, which opposed giving control of "the internet to foreigners." His nomination was held up for months by Senator Cruz, until he promised, "to investigate options for unwinding the transition,"

I asked Redl to let me know any ways he or Trump had changed the ICANN policy. He didn't offer any. "The survival of the internet as we know it is at risk, Its gravest peril originates in the White House, the current occupant of which has launched a campaign, both at home and internationally, to subjugate it to agents of government. [Obama] has unilaterally announced America's abandonment of the international internet by surrendering US control of the root zone of web names and addresses. He threw the internet to the wolves, and they – Russia, China, Iran, and others – are ready to devour it. We salute the Congressional Republicans who have legislatively impeded his plans to turn over the Information Freedom Highway to regulators and tyrants. That fight must continue, for its outcome is in doubt."

Redl is a smart,experienced operative. He almost certainly knows there is no practical way to take back ICANN but when I asked refused to say so. Who knows what he'll have to do to honor his pledge to Senator Cruz. Cruz is in a tough reelection campaign this fall.

The Internet naming system - ICANN, RIR, NARALO ... - is important to the day to day running of the Internet but has minimal impact beyond that. It is not essential to concerns like freedom of speech and the open Internet. The battle over ICANN is symbolic, a clash of national egos.

Putin believes ICANN is controlled by the U.S. and allies. It's only slightly more complicated. The board of ICANN has long been dominated by the U.S. and allies. The last Chair was more U.S. oriented than the U.S. government overseer. These pro-U.S. board members have been choosing new members in their own image. That is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Put another way: Before Larry Strickling gave official independence to ICANN, he knew the board members and their successors would not approve anything that caused significant harm to the United States. I don't remember any ICANN board member seriously opposing the "DC  Consensus" for Internet rules, despite two-thirds of nations wanting change.

One-third of the world is systematically excluded from the board, although CEO Fadi Chehade promised China "a seat at the table" two years ago. This was inevitable while ICANN was under the authority of the U.S., according to Fadi. It hasn't changed.

I was horrified when two more Americans were the board choices this year. There has never been an ICANN Board member from the People's Republic. Avri Doria, whom I respect, would be a good choice except for being a U.S. policy advocate. She served on official U.S. delegations such as the Plenipot. I called Sarah Deutsch a "hero" for her work on privacy, but a former Verizon lobbyist is not likely to move the Board out of the American orbit.

They do not take orders from David Redl, although his speeches imply they will. For example, they are not shutting down debate on the WHOIS privacy issue despite Redl's directive. I do not recall, nor do I expect, the ICANN board to take any action that severely affects American interests.

The cold war continues. 

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" 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