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Press censorship in US of problems with ICANN

       U.S. Press Not allowing Discussion of Problem 
              Represented by Privatizing IANA
                 and IETF Protocol Process
                      Even in Op Ed

Press Censorship of criticism of ICANN is unfortunately widespread
in the U.S. even preventing Op Eds to be allowed to be printed.
A while ago I wrote to a computer trade magazine that played
an important role in reporting a story about some problems
in making the cutover from NCP to TCP/IP and asked if they
would be willing to run a story investigating what was happening
with the creation of ICANN. The editor I wrote to told me
that I couldn't do that, but that I could do an op -ed as
long as it was limited to a certain number of words.

At first I found it difficult to do the op ed as it is hard
to write something short that is also specific. However, I 
finally did something and sent it to the editor. He referred
me to the new op ed editor. The new op ed editor asked me 
to redo the Op Ed. I did. He said it would be accepted and run.
Then 2 hours before he would be running it, he told me to
rewrite it, cut the word count, and answer a number of questions
he gave me.

I did so. Got it back to him in the 2 hours. And he wrote me
back that he wouldn't run it.

I had thought that op ed's were to be alternative viewpoints.

It became clear in accepting an invitation to do an op ed 
that that isn't true, at least in the experience with the 
computer trade magazine that I had. There is a serious need
for a broad ranging public discussion about what is happening
with the creation of ICANN and the U.S. government shift of 
control of enormous economic wealth and power over the Internet
and its users to ICANN. But this requires an open press and 
the welcoming of a broad ranging set of diverse views. 

Following is the op ed I submitted before all the additional
rigid requirements I was given. I thought it should
circulate despite the censorship by the computer trade magazine.


Is ICANN out of Control?
On Thursday, July 22, 1999 the U.S. Congress held a hearing
on the subject: Is ICANN out of control? It was held by the 
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the U.S. House 
Commerce Committee.
ICANN or the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers 
was created in Fall '98 as a private sector non profit 
corporation to take over ownership and control of certain 
essential functions of the Internet. These functions include 
among others, the IP numbers, the domain name system and root 
server system, and the protocols.
It is good to see the beginnning effort by the U.S. Congress 
to investigate what has happened with the creation and manipulation 
behind the scenes of ICANN.
Such investigation is needed.  But it is only the beginning of the 
needed government effort to find a solution to the controversy 
over ICANN. The hearing was a very meager beginning of the kind 
of study and input needed by Congress to understand the problem 
that ICANN is creating for the Internet community. Unfortunately, 
with a very few exceptions, most of the witnesses were supporters 
of ICANN, or were involved in protecting their own stake in 
gettting a piece of the wealth from transferring essential 
functions of the Internet to the private sector. Some Congressmen 
asked good questions. The absence of witnesses who would be able 
to help to identify the problem, however, showed the pressure 
by those who feel they will benefit from the privatizing of what 
has functioned effectively as a public sector responsibility. 
ICANN was created in the midst of a controversy over what would be 
the appropriate institutional form for the ownership and control 
of these functions of the Internet that are crucial to its 
At an ICANN meeting in January of 1999, a panelist from the Kennedy 
School of Government, Elaine Kamarck, explained that the nonprofit 
corporate form was inappropriate for the administration of 
functions like those that ICANN will be controlling. Since an 
individual's or company's economic life will be dependent on how 
these functions are administered, there needs to be the kind of 
safeguards that government has been created to provide. A nonprofit 
entity, even if it is a membership organization, does not have such 
safeguards for the kind of economic responsibility that ICANN is being 
set up to assume.
The development of ICANN over the past seven months has indeed 
demonstrated that the nonprofit corporate form, the 
structural form of ICANN, does not have a means to provide 
internal safeguards to counteract the tremendous power to control 
the Internet and its users which is being vested in ICANN. 

Contrary to popular opinion, the Internet is not a "finished" 
entity. It is a complex system of humans, computers, and networks 
which makes communication possible among these diverse entities. 
Scientific and grassroots science expertise continue to be needed 
to identify the problems and to help to figure out the solutions 
for the Internet to continue to grow and flourish.
A crucial aspect of the governance structure for the first
12 years of the life of the Internet had to do with being
a part of the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) of 
the research agency in the U.S. Department of Defense known an 
ARPA or the Advanced Projects Research Agency.  ARPA/IPTO was 
created to make it possible for computer scientists to support 
computer science research like that which gave birth to and made 
it possible to develop the Internet. This early institutional
form made it possible for people of different nations to
work together to build the Internet. 
How this was done needs to be understood and the lessons
learned for designing the institutional form to support
vital Internet functions today and for the future.
The U.S. Congress needs to be willing to raise the real questions 
and to look for the answers wherever they are to be found. 

*  URL: http://www.heise.de/tp/english/inhalt/co/5106/1.html

See also: URL: http://www.heise.de/tp/english/inhalt/te/2837/1.html

             Netizens: On the History and Impact
               of Usenet and the Internet
            in print edition ISBN 0-8186-7706-6