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[Comment-Aso] Re: Letter from ETSI to ICANN Board re ASO

13 August  1999

Interim Board of Directors
ICANN - Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers
4676 Admiralty Way, Suite 330
Marina del Rey, CA 90292 USA


An Open Letter to the ICANN Board of Directors

The IAB would like to respond to the European Telecommunications
Standards Institute's (ETSI's) letter commenting on the
"Proposal for
an MoU-based Address Supporting Organization (ASO)" submitted to
by the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs).

>From its beginnings, one of the key challenges for ICANN has
been establishing a balance of perspectives that encompasses
both (a) the perspective of technical and engineering principles
of the Internet and (b) the perspectives of industry, the
consumer base, and elements of public policy.  The Supporting
Organization structure is intended to provide that balance.  As
you know, the IETF has generally stood back from ICANN issues
and Supporting Organizations other than those related to the
PSO.  We believe that our doing so is consistent with the ICANN
Supporting Organization framework, in which each of the bodies
that make up those organizations is assumed to bring its
distinct perspective to ICANN.  If every organization is
represented everywhere, then the Supporting Organization model
becomes largely useless.

While we have strongly and consistently supported ICANN and see
strong IETF consensus for that support, there are still
significant concerns in the IETF community about the risks
associated with decisions which have technical or operational
impacts being made without sufficient technical review and
control. The original model for the PSO and Protocol Council
assumed that the IETF would be the principal source of broad
technical input to ICANN, input that would be based on the
perspective of protocol developers and on high-level Internet
operational experience.  This has evolved into a model which
includes a broader range of organizations who develop widely-
deployed standards used on the Internet.  The change is good
and useful from the standpoint of openness and balance, but
increases the risk of underrepresentation of the Internet's
technical core competencies in ICANN circles and hence the risk
of destabilization.

Against this backdrop, ETSI's letter requesting membership in
the ASO is cause for some concern.  The question of appropriate
representation is best addressed within the community that
allocates and uses these addresses: the IAB has no special
competence to form an opinion in that area.  However, we believe
it necessary for us to comment on the broader issues, as follows:

(1) ETSI's letter demonstrates a serious lack of understanding of
Internet protocols and operations that calls into doubt not only
appropriateness of their membership in the ASO but even, to the
that the PSO is seen as a technical resource for ICANN, ETSI's
role in
the PSO and its Council.

Specifically, we do not agree with ETSI's hypothesis that the
convergence of telecommunications networks and services with the
Internet and consequent use of IPv6 and IPv6 addresses implies a
need for "harmonization of numbering, naming, and addressing
systems".  One of the key strengths of the Internet architecture
is that it is designed to accommodate a variety of services with
different naming systems, such as: the web with its URLs; email
with its email addresses; FTP with with its domain names and
ability to deal with different host file systems; and a variety
of network numbering schemes, such as IEEE 802 LAN addresses,
AppleTalk addresses, ATM NSAP addresses.  The architecture
accomodates these and others WITHOUT requiring the core IP
addressing system to be "harmonized" with any of these service
naming systems or network numbering schemes.  This independence
is accomplished through layers of abstraction and, in
particular, identifier mapping mechanisms, such as the Domain
Name System and the Address Resolution Protocol.  These mapping
mechanisms then allow IP addressing to be optimized around the
needs of efficient IP packet routing and delivery, without
unnecessary constraints based on geographic or political
boundaries, and without limiting its future support of new kinds
of service naming systems and new kinds of network numbering.
This efficiency and adaptability is just as important for IPv6
as it has been for IPv4.

This is, of course, not uniquely an IETF view.  The advantages
of the layering abstractions used in both the OSI Reference
Model and its Internet parallels are well-established.  We are
unaware of anyone technically qualified and responsible who
advocates the principle of abandoning them for an integrated
system that requires application "addressing" to be sensitive
to the structure of transport "addressing" and so on.  Our
impression is that the general directions at ITU, which has been
ultimately responsible for the OSI layered model and E.164
addressing, still favor future work that maintains and expands
upon clear layering. 

The numbering systems of the traditional telecommunications
services and networks that fall within the areas of competence
ETSI believes need to be incorporated in the ASO, can and should
be accommodated in IPv6 just like the naming and numbering
systems of any other services that run over IP and any other
networks that carry IP.  By intentional design of the Internet
architecture, those naming and numbering systems have nothing to
do with the IP addressing system that is the concern of the ASO.

We expect IPv6 addresses to be organized on topological
significance, and probably to change as topology changes,
without explicit consideration of geographical significance.
This is in marked contrast to E.164 addresses, where ETSI
indicates their special competence lies.  The technical
expertise for both IPv4 and IPv6 address allocation lies with
the existing RIRs and their customers who operate the world's IP

While there is clear consensus on the importance of layering
abstractions, the broader topic of relationships between the
telephone system and the Internet is a matter of considerable
debate, even within the telecommunications industry itself.
Groups within a number of major industry players believe that
the traditional telecommunications infrastructure will
ultimately ride on top of an IP infrastructure, but will not
interact with it directly.  That model would be consistent with
the long-standing design principle that the basic structure of
the Internet is not altered to accommodate particular

In our opinion, it would be quite risky to the future of the
Internet for ICANN to accidentally prejudge the answer to the
complex technical questions involved in this issue.  Those
questions should be resolved in technical discussion among the
subject-matter experts participating in the relevant standards
development organizations.  They should not be replaced by an
administrative procedure derived from assumptions about the
answer by one organization that is a relative newcomer to the

(2) ETSI's expressed desire to be represented everywhere
confounds the
Supporting Organization model; granting ETSI's desire is likely
undermine that model, weakening ICANN's ability to obtain a
collection of perspectives on issues.  

(3) ETSI's argument is based in part on the not-yet-launched
Phase One".  If ETSI should be part of the ASO based on that
all other bodies working in this same area should also be
Of course, this is not the only significant deployment future for
Internet-based communications-based services.  Should every body
within every industry sector that is contemplating or developing
large scale deployment of Internet-based consumer electronics
exert influence directly in ICANN through comprehensive
membership in
every Supporting Organization?  ICANN's structure will not
accommodate such a model of competition in the exercise of

We ask that ICANN consider the above points when the creation of
ASO is considered, as well as in reviews of the structure and
functioning of other Supporting Organizations.

Thank you for your consideration,

John C Klensin
For the Internet Architecture Board (IAB)