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[Membership] A Model for Community & Global - complete version
My original plan was to post this document after ICANN's March meeting
and its initial decision on at-large membership. However, I
inadvertently released notes for the paper earlier today that I'd
carelessly left in my out box. So while this "late draft" version has
several holes in it, I find it necessary to release it now and hereby
request your thoughts on plugging them up.
A Model for Internet Governance at the Global and Community Levels
This posting presents an Internet governance model for use at the
neighborhood and global levels. It reveals how, in our effort to fulfill
our local need for a geographically-aware Internet, we can create the
basis for a secure and reliable voting mechanism for the global
While the model's implementation might be impractical for ICANN's
initial election, its structure proffers an effective voting system for
the second election of ICANN's Board of Governors.
While the U.S. government, ICANN, its Membership Advisory Committee, the
Berkman Center, and a multitude of individual supporters have struggled
to create new mechanisms for the administration and governance of the
global Internet, my neighbors and I have been focused on creating a
communication system that will help meliorate the many problems of our
Our 125,000 residents live in three distinct neighborhoods that together
comprise Community District 3 - the smallest planning and administrative
division of New York City. The District has a planning and service
delivery monitoring unit called a Community Board, of which I am
In an ongoing effort to improve our community, the Board, through its
Communications Committee, has reviewed the capabilities and limitations
of traditional communications media and the Internet for six years. Over
that period the Internet "'arrived" and we're eagerly awaiting
neighborhood benefits, particularly improved communication and decision
In reviewing the Internet we detected several features that forebode a
negative impact on neighborhood economic development and the governance
of District 3 - particularly, the network's geographic ignorance and
distance insensitivity. I'll focus here on a timely example of the
problems caused by geographic ignorance, offer a solution, and review
its implication for ICANN.
LIFE AND DEATH
New York City's TV and newspaper headlines are filled these days with
talk of Amadou Diallo, an African youth shot to death by four NYC police
officers in a barrage of 41 bullets. One New York Times headline read "A
District 3 is quite diverse with many black and Hispanic residents. And
the need to assure our neighbors that they are, indeed, our brothers
seems appropriate, and maybe essential, these days. But the basic design
of the Internet doesn't allow it to play a role here. AOL, AT&T, Bell
Atlantic, Netcom and dozens of others provide Internet access to our
residents. And those systems know nothing of our local needs. They do
not connect the people in our neighborhoods. Here we have a life and
death situation and today's Internet offers no solution.
A NEIGHBORHOOD INTERNET MODEL
What we need is a way for our geographic community to communicate in
time of need. But equally important is a "neighborhood network" where
people regularly meet to share ideas, make decisions, and organize for
At minimum, the Internet needs to provide a means for our residents to
communicate with one another in times of emergency. In Radio and TV land
there's an Emergency Broadcasting System (EBS). In the 1950's our
neighbors decided EBS technology could warn against missiles, tornadoes,
and other imminent dangers and instructed our government to install one.
In the 1960's telephony provided us with the 911 system. And our cable
TV franchise provides the municipality with the capacity to interject a
message of civic importance. But the Internet will fall far short in
this regard. It's a fundamental flaw.
But it's not only emergency applications that society asks of its new
technology. With each wave we look for broader community benefit, e.g.,
universal service, educational TV, public service announcements, and
C-SPAN. The Internet's potential contribution lies in a "neighborhood
network" where people meet to share ideas, make decisions, and organize
for solutions. (These are more commonly called "community networks" but,
because of the many virtual Internet communities, I use the more land
While most agree on the desirability of these networks there is some
confusion as to their method of birth and sustenance. Some suggest that
neighborhood networks be created through voluntary enrollment by users.
But sans regulatory intervention, the reach of this voluntary system
would be miniscule. They'll have no marketing punch against AOL et al.
And most will see them as government or quasi-government; and we know
people only seek government in time of dire need. We need a way to
provide neighborhood networks with the desirability and inconvenience of
a flu shot.
There are several ways to develop Internet-based neighborhood networks.
I'll outline one that provides harmonious benefits for ICANN and global
governance of the Internet.
NEIGHBORHOOD NEEDS AND NETWORK FUNCTIONS
(The neighborhood network described here is appropriate for a community
located in the "world's capital" in booming economic times. Other
communities might decide on lesser or more capacious networks.)
If our neighborhoods are to govern themselves and prosper as part of the
networked world, all our residents need: email accounts and access to a
Community Service Tier - providing federal, state, city, community
board, and civic web sites. They also need a structure that develops and
maintains the web page housing the Community Service Tier pointers; and
training. The network must provide immediate notification of emergency
situations upon connection - or a beep with always-on technology.
But since the Internet was not designed with geographic communities in
mind, there is no simple technology tool kit to provide these features.
So how do we create a neighborhood network?
THE COMMUNISPHERE PROJECT
In my community we created the not-for profit, Communisphere Project,
to develop the neighborhood web site, maintain mechanisms for
discussion, decision making, etc; promote and provide training, and
promote and/or provide access. Communisphere's web site will be the
Project's key undertaking; however, we're prepared to be the "provider
of last resort" for Internet access. (Currently, we provide email,
listserv, and BBS services.)
We've a board of directors to help decide on access issues: who we list
on our site - who we host - who we train, etc.
Working through the Community Board, and with the support of our
community organizations, Communisphere will be designated as the
"official" site for our community. We'll maintain that all good citizens
connect to Communisphere - the place where neighborhood discussions and
decisions are made. And (assuming we take the ISP route) we'll sign up
about 300 do-gooders via direct dial up accounts.
So how do we let our neighbors using AOL, AT&T, etc. know about us? How
do they gain access? How do they reap the benefits of a Community
Service Tier, discussions, emergency notification, etc? How do we reach
more than the do-gooders? This involves ISP Certification.
Since a key Communisphere role is facilitating the resolution of
community issues we will only accept bona fide residents as full
contributing members. We'll use snail mail to a neighborhood address to
These "CERTIFIED RESIDENTS" can also be provided with voting rights to
elect ICANN Governors. Perhaps ICANN's newly appointed Government
Advisory Committee can recommend ways to bridge the gap on determining
which local government is appropriate.
But what about the AOL, AT&T, XYZ…users? How do they get Certified? How
do subscribers to these ISPs gain the safety features and the right to
vote in neighborhood and ICANN elections?
Our Community Board will provide "Community-Friendly ISP" Certification
to ISPs that meet minimum qualifications. These will be similar to the
features promoted/offered by The Communisphere Project: provision of a
free email account and access to the Community Service Tier (CST).
Access to the CST should be provided from the ISP's browser - with the
neighborhood network's icon going bright red in times of emergency.
I'm not suggesting that all residents will care to be part of the
neighborhood. But those who do will be provided with the participation
and safety features that our "Certified" ISPs offer. And they'll receive
the additional benefit of qualifying to vote in ICANN's elections. (I'm
sure billions are holding their breadth on this one.)
ISP's who do not participate and provide these foundation neighborhood
features, will not be contributing to our community. We'll work with
Certified ISP. Non certified ISPs will wait.
I hope this model is helpful. While there are several devils, I'm
hopeful that the readers will contribute to their conversion.
February 20, 1999