The question: how to arrange “robust interconnection” of the Internet without being dependent on ICANN. Vladimir Putin is creating an alternate root, with support from India and China. Columbia Professor Eli Noam convinced me a “network of networks” was possible and could be a good thing in theory. I doubt ICANN will actually shut out the Russians, but it’s reasonable for Russia to protect itself.* My question here is technical. Thousands of people, especially at the IETF, have worked to build the Internet we have today. The principles are simple; the implementation is demanding. So I’m asking engineers, “What technical systems must be built to ensure robust interconnection, assuming everyone wants to work in good faith?”
ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadi confirmed to me there was no technical reason the Chinese, Hebrews, Verizon or any other competent party couldn’t set up independently. Vladimir Putin intends to test that, creating a new root that is not controlled by a California organization. The primary benefits of “The Internet” could be maintained so long as there was “robust interconnection.” Fadi added the rub was how to ensure that robust interconnection.
I think Fadi was worried about censorship, a real issue.
However, I can’t see the DNS as the primary place to face that battle. The Chinese have proven they can censor without control of the DNS. At the beginning, the “Great Firewall” was built by Cisco, although now the Chinese are using domestic suppliers. The Indonesians have just allocated $14M for a similar system.
The West is also aggressively censoring. Germany and Britain are demanding Google and Facebook do the dirty work and hire tens of thousands to censor, They face possible $50M fines if they don’t quickly take down undefined “hate speech” or “support for terrorists.”
The definition is so broad they might have to shut me down if I wrote, “The U.S. military interventions in Iraq and Syria merely replaced one set of vicious thugs with a slight less vicious group that might support the U.S. The Arab people will fight back. They will win.” (I don’t know if “The Arabs will win” is accurate, but it certainly is a reasonable opinion.)
I asked that question on the IETF mailing list and received 20 interesting but inconclusive answers. Several pointed to IETF documents that show how in theory this would be possible. In particular, they pointed out that today’s system of regional servers can do much of this. They already contain most of the information needed. That’s fair enough and explains why Russia will probably do just fine without changes, but the Russians see it as insufficient.
Several asked “Would it still be ‘The Internet’ if there were two roots?” What you call it is uninteresting, so I rephrased the question to “How to arrange “robust interconnection” that retains most benefits of the Internet without being dependent on ICANN.”
Fiber expert Hunter Newby tells me the system would be much more efficient with a direct fiber connection to the Russian networks. That’s part of the answer, but there is much more involved in a system that will keep the West close to the 100M Russian Internet users, who may be joined by a billion more from China and India. Both have demanded a system without ICANN control, although they may not move as aggressively.
I’m waiting for Göran Marby or ICANN CTO David Conrad to get back to me.
For the background.
Russia Orders Alternate Root Internet System
Professor Noam’s Many Internets;
Putin, Xi, Modi, Temer, Zuma: Our 3,000,000,000 People Think the U.S. Shouldn’t Run the Internet (Xiamen Statement) First Look
ICANN Continues Excluding Russia & China From the Board
ICANN CEO’s Promise to China of a Seat At The Table
This article will be expanded after I reach out to the tech community for answers.
For the background.
* ICANN, a California corporation subject to U.S. law, may already be legally obligated to shut down any URLs connected to Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov. He’s a thug, but didn’t do anything on Facebook to cause him to be blocked from his 4M followers.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Stephan Mnuchin has threatened to block the Russians and Chinese from the essential international banking system SWIFT. In response, the Russians have built an alternative. Setting up similar for the DNS may be a sensible precaution.
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