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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
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