First Look: Declaration of Independence of the Net

Internet father Vint Cerf, WWW creator Tim Berners-Lee and two dozen of their peers and colleagues are trying to take de facto control of the Internet back from government in a worldwide coordinated movement. Much of the world is demanding change as PRISM brought home the breadth of U.S. surveillance; the “wise old men” of the net, angered themselves by PRISM, are terrified about governments coming in heavily.

     The proposals are without details yet but the intent is clear: practical problems will mostly be resolved in ICANN and IETF, with an informal coalition of the most respected Internet engineers persuading governments to keep out of the way.

ICANN under Fadi Chehadé will re-organize, moving much of the organization to Istanbul and Singapore. He will not formally disassociate from the U.S. government charter. Chahadé just announced in India and will probably repeat next week at IGF Bali

  • The Affirmation of Commitments needs to change from being a contract between ICANN and the US Government, to a contract between ‘ICANN and you’.
  • The handling of the IANA function needs to be structured in keeping with the idea that it is the ‘root of the world’ rather than of any one country.
  • ICANN headquarters would be split between Los Angeles, Istanbul and Singapore, and hiring in Los Angeles is to be frozen. (quick notes by audience member which I will confirm when the video is up.)

     ICANN and the regional registries will run the domain system. IETF under Jari Arkko will set technical standards. IETF already cooperates with GSMA on mobile and ITU on fixed and that will continue. Organizations like IEEE and ISOC are likely to be supportive. 

    The first public disclosure was the Montevideo Statement (below) from the registries, W3C, ISOC and IETF. It was worded so diplomatically I initially thought it was just a a typical conference feelgood agreement. Milton Mueller was the first to declare this meant much more. He writes



In Montevideo, Uruguay this week, the Directors of all the major Internet organizations – ICANN, the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Architecture Board, the World Wide Web Consortium, the Internet Society, all five of the regional Internet address registries – turned their back on the US government. With striking unanimity, the organizations that actually develop and administer Internet standards and resources initiated a break with 3 decades of U.S. dominance of Internet governance. …

. A day after the Montevideo declaration, the President and CEO of ICANN, Fadi Chehadi – the man vetted by the US government to lead its keystone Internet governance institution – met with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. And at this meeting, Chehade engaged in some audacious private Internet diplomacy. He asked “the president [of Brazil] to elevate her leadership to a new level, to ensure that we can all get together around a new model of governance in which all are equal.”

    My take is Milton is overstating a bit. The same folks are actively working with the U.S. government in other areas. Timbl is fronting the U.S. government supported Alliance for Affordable Internet. ISOC is extremely close to the U.S. government as well. Beth Simone Noveck was on the Obama Transition Team and in the administration.

    The first key challenge to the change: governments don’t like being pushed to the side. The U.S. has uninformed hotheads making massive noise in D.C. that taking the net away from nominal U.S. control will destroy freedom. Some are right wing zealots. Others, prominent inside government, see the Internet debates as “Do you want Russia and China to run the Internet?” Behind it all are the U.S. three letter agencies like NSA that will do anything to keep the Internet open to overwhelming U.S. surveillance. The rest of the world hates that, even our European allies.

    Three quarters of the world’s countries – and about the same fraction of Internet users – despises the idea the the U.S. and U.S. allies “control the Internet.” That’s how the vote went at Dubai. The issue is almost entirely symbolic, as long as the “network of networks” continues to freely interchange traffic. The U.S., France, China, Russia and Iran already have total legal authority within their own borders. The rest of the world, whether U.S. or ITU, has no power beyond moral suasion. In practice, as long as the networks are well-interconnected, those who really want to can bypass almost any restriction. The actual day-to-day decisions mostly affect things like whether your domain registration will cost $9 or $15. Meaningful but not worth world-scale battle. 

     China already has twice as many Internet users as the U.S. In the next 2-4 years both Africa and India will also have more net users than America  with the spread of $50-$100 smart phones . They don’t want to be dictated to and inevitably power will shift in the long term. The “Cabal of Elders” all personally acknowledge this but nearly all those publicly identified are U.S. centric. China, Russia and Latin America have very few in the leadership group. The second challenge will be to win support from those in the emerging world outside of the current establishment. 

     The smartest move for the U.S. will be to honor our principles and support this wise effort to keep the Internet open. That’s almost impossible in D.C., however. We have hotheads still fighting the cold war. We have corporations making literally $hundreds of billions in the old system resisting change, including Google, AT&T and Cisco. Above all in government policy, NSA and friends are profoundly committed to watching everyone and have convinced even Barack Obama to support them nearly totally.

     Most in the U.S. believe our own propaganda that the WCIT battle was about freedom versus censorship. Of course China, Saudi Arabia and Russia have a different idea of “free speech” than we do. Giving the rest of the world a share of power will swing things away from the U.S. way of doing things. I personally believe in continuing to fight that battle, but as I came to understand the actual governance issues realized that nothing at WCIT would have much impact on my actual freedom on the net. China and Iran will do what they will domestically and let the U.S. and Europe do what we choose in our own countries. The U.S. has no claim to moral high ground in any case; Cisco was a primary contractor on the Great Firewall of China. The U.S. in the ITU strongly supported Chinese style central control and DPI surveillance.

     Vint, Timbl, Paul Mockapetris (inventor of DNS), Jari Arkko (IETF Chair), Paul Vixie (authored SEND, maintained BIND), Joi Ito (Director, MIT Media Lab), Bitange Ndemo (Kenyan Minister), Bob Hinden (crucial in IPv6), and the 50-100 others involved have earned our respect. There’s an informal consensus among them to avoid the formalities here, including not directly attacking the U.S. (very lightly used) legal control of the system. They have no official power, only intelligence and moral suasion. They are avoiding the security issues that are the real driver of the battles, much as we wish it were otherwise.

     They will be opposed by the national interests of U.S. security, Russia, China and probably others. Inevitably, they will come in conflict with some major corporations who are now shielded by the U.S. from demands of the poorer nations of the world. One constant battle is the declining terms of trade in communications, costing Africa $billions. “Sender pays” is anti-consumer in the developed world. It generally raises prices by giving power to charge to giant carriers with market power. But it may be the only way to address the African loss of income. I’ve followed the money and billions are accruing to AT&T (lower LD payments) & Google (which pays almost no taxes in Africa). Google and AT&T drove the U.S. demand to take this off the table at WCIT. 

    Two billion more people will connect to the net in the next few years, enabled by the $50 smartphones and must be included.

    Here’s the Montevideo Statement and the ICANN Strategy Panel announcement, both with important names.


Montevideo Statement on the Future of Internet Cooperation




 7 October 2013

Montevideo, Uruguay – The leaders of organizations responsible for coordination of the Internet technical infrastructure globally have met in Montevideo, Uruguay, to consider current issues affecting the future of the Internet.

The Internet and World Wide Web have brought major benefits in social and economic development worldwide. Both have been built and governed in the public interest through unique mechanisms for global multistakeholder Internet cooperation, which have been intrinsic to their success. The leaders discussed the clear need to continually strengthen and evolve these mechanisms, in truly substantial ways, to be able to address emerging issues faced by stakeholders in the Internet.

In this sense:

  • They reinforced the importance of globally coherent Internet operations, and warned against Internet fragmentation at a national level. They expressed strong concern over the undermining of the trust and confidence of Internet users globally due to recent revelations of pervasive monitoring and surveillance.

  • They identified the need for ongoing effort to address Internet Governance challenges, and agreed to catalyze community-wide efforts towards the evolution of global multistakeholder Internet cooperation.

  • They called for accelerating the globalization of ICANN and IANA functions, towards an environment in which all stakeholders, including all governments, participate on an equal footing.

  • They also called for the transition to IPv6 to remain a top priority globally. In particular Internet content providers must serve content with both IPv4 and IPv6 services, in order to be fully reachable on the global Internet.

Adiel A. Akplogan, CEO
African Network Information Center (AFRINIC)

John Curran, CEO
American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN)

Paul Wilson, Director General
Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC)

Russ Housley, Chair
Internet Architecture Board (IAB)

Fadi Chehadé, President and CEO
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)

Jari Arkko, Chair
Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)

Lynn St. Amour, President and CEO
Internet Society (ISOC)

Raúl Echeberría, CEO
Latin America and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC)

Axel Pawlik, Managing Director
Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC)

Jeff Jaffe, CEO
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)


14 October 2013

ICANN welcomes over 40 diverse practitioners, subject matter experts, and thought leaders as members of the ICANN Strategy Panels to support development of ICANN‘s strategic and operational plans.

ICANN Strategy Panels will serve as an integral part of a framework for cross-community dialogue on strategic matters. Designed to conduct work in critical strategic areas identified by the community, Board, and staff [PDF, 209 KB], the work of these panels will build on public input being generated to inform a new, overarching vision and five-year strategic plan. As illustrated, there will be extensive information sharing and community engagement with the Panels. Panel output will be posted for public comments and community discussion online and at ICANN meetings, before being factored into ICANN‘s strategic and/or operating plans, as appropriate.

A video interview with Theresa Swinehart, Senior Advisor to the President on Strategy, is available here.

Identifier Technology Innovation


Paul Mockapetris — Inventor, Domain Name System


Jari Arkko — Chair, Internet Engineering Task Force
Anne-Marie Eklund-Löwinder — Security Manager, The Internet Infrastructure Foundation
Geoff Huston — Chief Scientist, Asia-Pacific Network Information Center
James Seng — CEO, Zodiac Holdings
Paul Vixie — CEO, Farsight Security
Lixia Zhang — Postel Chair of Computer Science, University of California Los Angeles

This panel is dedicated to strategizing engagement with the ICANN community and public on technology matters. Its objectives include developing a technology roadmap for DNS and other identifiers, and providing a technology roadmap for ICANN technical and security operations, including best practice recommendations and reference objects.

ICANN Multistakeholder Innovation


Beth Simone Noveck — Founder and Director, The Governance Lab


Alison Gillwald — Executive Director, Research ICT Africa
Joi Ito — Director, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab
Karim Lakhani — Lumry Family Associate Professor of Business Administration, Harvard University
Guo Liang — Director, China Internet Project
Geoff Mulgan — Chief Executive, National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts
Bitange Ndemo — Former PS of the Ministry of Communications

This panel is tasked with examining how Internet policy related to unique identifiers might be best managed. It will propose new models for broad, inclusive engagement, consensus-based policymaking, and institutional structures to support such enhanced functions. In addition, it will design processes, tools and platforms to enable the global ICANN community to engage in these new forms of participatory decision-making.

Public Responsibility Framework


Nii Quaynor — Founding Chairman, AfriNIC


Tim Berners-Lee — Director, World Wide Web Consortium
Soumitra Dutta — Dean of Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University
Bob Hinden — Check Point Fellow, Check Point Software Technologies
Blake Irving — CEO, Go Daddy
Nevine Tewfik — Director, Cyber Peace Initiative
Raúl Zambrano — Team Leader, Inclusive Participation and Global Policy Adviser in the ICT for Development and e-governance team, United Nations Development Program

This panel will propose ICANN‘s role and five-year strategic objectives and milestones in promoting the global public interest. It will examine ways of building out ICANN‘s base of internationally diverse, knowledgeable and engaged stakeholders, especially within the developing world. It will also propose a framework for achieving those objectives and milestones as well providing advice on specific programs and initiatives.

ICANN‘s Role in the Internet Governance Ecosystem


Vinton Cerf — VP and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google


Adiel Akplogan — CEO, AfriNIC Ltd
Michael Barrett — President, The FIDO Alliance
Hartmut Glaser — Executive Secretary, Brazilian Internet Steering Committee/
Erik Huizer — Chief Technology Officer, SURFnet
Hagen Hultzsch — Zimory Chairman of the Board
Janis Karklins — Assistant Director General of Communication and Information, United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization
Wolfgang Kleinwächter — Professor of International Communication Policy and Regulation, University of Aarhus
Luis Magalhães — Professor at Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon
Debbie Monahan — Domain Names Commissioner, Domain Name Commission Ltd, part of the InternetNZ Group
Alice Munyua — Chair of the Kenya Internet Governance Steering Committee
P.J. Narayanan — Director, Hyderabad International Institute of Information Technology
Alejandro Pisanty — Director General, Academic Computing Service of the National University of Mexico
Carlton Samuels — Former Secretariat, Latin America and Caribbean Regional At-Large Advisory Organization
Ismail Serageldin — Director, Library of Alexandria
Pindar Wong — Chairman VeriFi (Hong Kong) Ltd


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