Newsbreak: U.S. Gov, Vint Cerf believe 3GPP should be multistakeholder, participatory

6 minutes might transform the discussion on LTE-U/LAA & WiFi spectrum. Larry Strickling of NTIA “prefers the model of the Internet Engineering Task Force… we always prefer a model that invites more participation rather than less. …  I think you’re making a good point. If Obama had a third term, I think I’d be able to work on it. ” Everyone laughed, but he had made his point. (full quote below) Larry is the U.S. lead on Internet issues like the ICANN contract and made a strong speech favoring multi-stakeholder and community processes. Vint Cerf and Laura DeNardis added strong endorsements of participatory processes.

At the end – 132:30 or so in the video – I asked them about whether 3GPP/ATIS should also have open participation, especially around the issues of LTE-U/LAA and Wi-Fi spectrum. These are far bigger Internet policy issues than anything ICANN is likely to do. At about 137: Larry addressed the issue, including mentioning he didn’t know the details of 3GPP. Vint spoke about how important it is to apply multistakeholder processes to technical discussions that relate to policy. 

A moment later, Laura DeNardis spoke up. “I’d like to also respond to the issue of Open Standards. I am extremely passionate about this. If one believes that the process for setting the technical rules for the Internet is also a public policy issue, then having openness in that procedure is of vital importance.

Many people don’t have the technical expertise or the financial backing or the time to get involved but just having a procedure where people have the option to get involved is vitally important. open in in participation also open in implementation. I want to extend what you said to the standards being openly published. We cannot have accountability if we do not have transparency. Often, technical decisions determine wider issues.”

The smart move for Susan Miller, head of ATIS & 3GPP, is to immediately open up the group. Until about a decade ago, ATIS committees were open to everybody. The DSL standards they developed in an open committee in the 1990’s are holding up remarkably well. She can do that with a few phone calls to people like Kathy Brown of the Internet Society and leaders of IETF, IEEE & similar groups. Miller has known the issue for more than a decade, when I reported about the closing of the ATIS DSL committee not long after the Chair of that committee had publicly said he was proud it was an open group. With AT&T, Verizon, Comcast & Time Warner on the board, ATIS can certainly fund itself even if a handful of the smaller companies don’t want to pay for membership.

In practice, letting a few civilians and academics in will change very little. As Larry notes, there aren’t many with the skills, time and money to get involved. Most of what goes through 3GPP is difficult to understand even if you have Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, if wireless isn’t your specialty.   

In contrast, anyone can participate in the IEEE groups – you just have to go to some meetings. The IETF, which makes most “Internet” decisions is totally open and does everything in public. The proof the IETF does a good job begins with my ability to write this and your ability to read it. In practice, most of the leaders of the IETF are corporate engineers, especially from Cisco and Ericsson. But the non-corporate types prevent gross abuses.  

On the other hand, to be a member of 3GPP, you have to be a member of ATIS, the U.S. standards organization, or one of several other national standards groups. ATIS membership rules have no provision for individuals or most Civil Society. “Full Membership is open to service providers, manufacturers, distributors, and developers of communications, entertainment and information technology products and services.” I just discovered they also offer an affiliate membership that is open to universities, so I was mistaken when I said it was only corporate. I believe it is very expensive. It is certainly not “open” in the forms we are discussing.

Fadi Chehadé, ICANN CEO, was in a later session. Marietje Schaake of the EU and Kathy Brown of the Internet Society were among the two dozen other prominent speakers at the Columbia U. SIPA Conference on Internet Governance 

Since the Smoking Gun submission about reducing competition, pushing through LTE-U/LAA without wide public participation is an invitation to an antitrust suit.

Thanks to Joly MacFie and the Internet Society, you will be able to watch the full event.

I asked the question at 132:30 or so. All you see is the back of my head in the lower corner. I made a mistake when I said 3GPP/ATIS was company only.

At 1:37, Larry made his remarks. “I personally prefer the model of the Internet Engineering Task Force. I don’t know the model of the 3GPP. I don’t know whether it is set up to exclude people or it’s just the way it conducts its business or the technical expertise required discourages other people from participating or not. In general, we always prefer a model that invites more participation rather than less. … I think you’re making a good point. If Obama had a third term, I think I’d be able to work on it.”

DeNardis followed, with the quote above.

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