Ronda Hauben on Sat, 26 Nov 2005 18:41:26 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> About Robert Kahn's talk at WSIS in Tunis)

Following is a response I sent to the governance mailing list about
the recent WSIS conference in Tunis. I thought those on the nettime
mailing list would find it of interest:

On 11/26/05, Laina Raveendran Greene <> wrote:

> Just curious what people think about Robert Kahn's presentation at WSIS

I was disappointed in his presentation as I had heard a presentation he
made in 1998 at a ACM policy meeting (several sig groups participated in
sponsoring it).

I probably still have a tape of his speech somewhere from that meeting.

At the time the wind was blowing full steam to privatize, while in his
speech at the ACM policy meeting he explained the need to determine what
should be the government role in the administration of the Internet. He
gave the example of how there is a government role in the administration
of banking and how the government role had been figured out in the case of
banks, but not in the case of the Internet.

Later I spoke to him and he said that the international community wanted a
role in the administration of the Internet and it was a serious question
to determine what that should be.

In his talk at WSIS (Tunis) on the contrary, he said something
about control being with the private sector.

" While the Internet began as a government controlled research effort, it
has now become a critical part of the global information infrastructure.
The locus of control has shifted from government to the private sector
through many deliberate efforts over the past two decades. I am convinced
this is an appropriate outcome."

I thought on the program his talk was one of the talks by civil society
sponsored by the ITU.

I was a disappointed that he didn't raise the need he had raised in 1998
to figure out what the proper government role should be.

Kahn has made important contributions as a researcher to the creation and
development of the Internet, and raising the research question of what the
appropriate role is, especially when this is such a contentious issue, is
a helpful perspective
which he offered in 1998.

Also, it isn't there is one goverrnment with quite a bit of control over
the Internet, the US government. It isn't as Kahn stated that the 'locus
of control' has shifted to the private sector. Nor is it clear it should.
The private sector doesn't include the users,
or the netizens. Essentially there is a whole sector disenfranchised if
the so called 'private sector' is in control, as he stated.

When I was at a meeting at the Berkman Center at Harvard when ICANN was
just formed or being formed, there was discussion about the Internet and
how critical are is the infrastructure (which includes the IP numbers,
protocols and dns)

I mentioned that these were very very valuable.

During the break Elaine Kamarck, who had been on the staff for Al Gore,
told me to keep talking at the meeting take the person off the board.

She said she didn't know about the Internet but she did know
government. That the economic life of millions of people was dependent on
the Internet.

In such a situation you can't have a corporate board of directors in
charge as if there is abuse, all one can do is to

That in government there are checks to prevent various kinds of abuse
which don't exist in a corporate board structure. (Granted these checks
don't work in government at times. But the basis for abuse in a corporate
setting is even greater. Witness Enron and WorldCom perhaps as small
examples.) She said that there had been a long of creating government
institutions to have such responsibility, while that isn't true for a
corporate board of directors.

Kahn's talk skirted this critical issue which is in contention.

He has developed the handle system for the publishing industry originally.
Whether that origin which was to protect the publishing industry purposes
affects how the handle system functions I don't know. I wondered how those
of us who function in a noncommerrcial setting would be affected by the
use of the handle system.

Also it seemed that the design for the handle system was to put control in
the commercial sector.

I know there are other efforts like that of the folks in Korea who have
created netpia to develop systems to provide for non latin alphabets that
might provide alternatives to the DNS/

Also during his final press conference at the Summit, the
Secretary-General of the ITU, Utsami spoke of China having some system for
their dns and that there would be more regional systems in the future.
Here the discussion of alternative systems was being raised as a way to
regionalise control of the Internet's infrastructure, rather than having
control reside in the hands of one country.


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Netizens: On the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet

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