[AfrICANN-discuss] Some inspirational reading on IG issues

Dandjinou Pierre pdandjinou at gmail.com
Tue Aug 27 12:07:03 SAST 2013

Just sharing this one..And probably some questions on where Africa does
stand on IG issues?


And Now The Second Battle Of The Internet

by Jean-Christophe Nothias - Editor June 13, 2013

The Verizon or PRISM or Snowden affair, revealed by The Guardian, marks a
turning point in the history – a very young history – of the Internet and
its governance within the international landscape. With the facts as
overwhelming as they are frightening, they show above all the mighty power
of the United States (US) over the Internet and its users. This issue not
only concerns the information of American citizens, but also all
‘foreigners’ who have a Google account and other Internet industry
heavyweights. We are talking about the very core of Internet governance
currently under American domination.

The rules in question, such as respect of personal information, net
neutrality or digital public policies whether national, regional or
international, are at the heart of an ongoing 15-year battle. During the
last two years, this fight has taken a more aggressive turn, with the US
government, American companies and their close allies pitted against those
who demand more international and multilateral governance. The US
government is clinging to its power via a so-called “multi-stakeholder”
model, lumped together with the believers in an autonomously-ruled
Internet, the so-called digital freedom fighters who reject all
governmental regulation, the masked anonymous vigilantes who act as law
enforcement, the kings of spam or porn, the Internet money makers, the
rebel hackers or former hackers, now intelligence officers.

Not a week goes by without an enlightened mind cursing governments or
recounting the story of the Internet as a pure product of 1960s
counterculture, born from LSD or the desire to live in a commune. According
to such individuals, the founding fathers of the Internet offered the world
this new space beyond the control of national powers. The reality of the
Internet is actually more pragmatic, industrial and economic. And to be
honest, the Internet has now become a very political field of battle.

As opposed to a phenomenon linked to a form of counterculture, the Verizon
affair has shed new light on the reality of Internet control. Worldwide,
every state plays, whether chosen or not, a role within its own borders,
fortified by traditions, law and industrial heavyweights. One country in
particular has the power to not only impose its Internet laws on its
citizens, but also on ‘foreign citizens’ – that is, the US. This is exactly
what the Verizon affair has demonstrated. Indeed, it is further evidence
there is a need to redevelop and rebalance Internet governance. And this is
the very thing US officials and large US digital corporations have refused
to discuss in Dubai, Geneva or elsewhere.

The computer scientist inventors of interconnected networks belonged to an
academic elite from MIT, Berkeley, Stanford and USC. As early as the 1960s,
they enjoyed a significant amount of financing provided by the Pentagon,
NASA and other governmental agencies. These pioneers not only drove
scientific and technological development but also Internet ‘policies’ – at
least until 1998. Until this time, the roots of the Internet were in the
hands of academic pioneers. They had a humanist, pragmatic, neutral and
open vision.

One such founding father was Dr Jonathan Postel, himself a computer
scientist and editor of the famous Request For Comments (RFCs) that served
as a model for open discussion and improvement of Internet rules and
processes. With John Lennon glasses and long hair, Postel was nevertheless
celebrated as “Colonel Postel” upon his arrival at the Pentagon – quite
impressive since this free man was considered by pioneers as responsible
for Internet rules being defined outside the governmental sphere. Somewhat
more worrying for Postel himself was the Clinton administration’s desire,
led by Al Gore and his emissary Ira Magaziner, to take control of the
Internet. Postel understood this from very early on, back in 1997. Of the
13 servers that today still constitute the backbone of the Internet, Postel
attempted to unlink the 8 “civilian” ones from the reach of the government.
The mathematician pointed them toward a 14th server, a new master he set
for the purpose, in January 1998. A vigorous phone call from the White
House put this digital insurgency to an end.

By the end of January 1998, the Internet and its governance fell completely
into the hands of the US government and those who accepted this forced
move. In a thwarted attempt, Postel sought without success to entrust
Internet governance to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
Not to panic Internet stakeholders, the US government decided to delegate
the authority given to universities to an association incorporated in
California three weeks after the death of Postel on an operation table in
Los Angeles in October 1998. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names
and Numbers (ICANN) was inaugurated at his grave, with future board members
reuniting for the first time at the cemetery in memory of the scientist who
fiercely protected the development of the Internet.

Since its creation, ICANN has been a controversial organization
characterized by abuse, non-transparency, lack of representation and
conflicting interests. The greatest concern remains its guardianship –
ICANN is under contract with the Department of Commerce and a change in
2009 meant a renewable three-year agreement became indefinite. This is
contrary to a guarantee of independence. Like other organizations
instrumental to Internet governance, ICANN cannot be considered a neutral
international body. Its new president Fahi Chehadé aims to improve this
perception – a delicate task even for this specialist in multi-stakeholder
governance recalling that the Department of Commerce recently contradicted
a decision by ICANN. Who has total authority over the management of the
Internet backbone? The Californian association or its guardianship

>From the very beginning, the famous 13 servers forming the Internet’s
backbone (the DNS Root Servers) have been in American hands, or in the
hands of close allies. The two not located in American territory are in
London (LINX/RIPE) and Stockholm (NORDU). That is, the two capitals most
vocal alongside Washington in favor of the status quo. The strongly
anti-United Nations campaign that followed the Dubai conference in December
2012 worried many who saw there a resurgence of the Cold War. Not quite so,
I would say. The PRISM affair demonstrates the problem was not so much the
danger represented by China or Russia in regards to our exchanges, accounts
and personal information, but the fact of having a state and some of its
digital juggernauts enjoying control of the Internet.

Yes, the economic issues are major, especially in terms of high-speed
broadband, critical to accelerating the economic development of entire
countries. Who should pay for this significant investment? Each single user
whatever means they have? Public or private national operators? The
Internet Service Provider that benefits from the connection of these
networks? The Internet robber barons such as Google and others? What are
the two thirds of the world population to do who have no access to the
Internet? For two years, Americans have pushed to defend the status quo,
even inventing ‘digital’ human rights.

A more pragmatic and responsible approach can be seen right by the southern
border of the US. Mexican President Peña Nieto is among those advocating
for greater equality, working to enshrine a right to broadband access in
his country’s constitution. He turned this into reality on 10 June, when he
signed the Constitutional Reform Regarding Telecommunications and Economic
Competition.  In the same breath, his initiative will break the monopolies
that controlled Mexico for years. The fortune of the current owner of the
New York Times, Carlos Slim, comes from this previous state of things. So
it goes in the US with ATT, Verizon and Comcast, which shared the market
under unconcerned eyes – indeed, an approving government. Some voices are
speaking out, such as former White House official Susan Crawford, who
advocates for more competition and more public policy, not just regulation
obscured by a market. Interviewed last April, Alec Ross, the former Special
Digital Advisor for the State Department declared to me: “digital human
rights do not exist in legal terms, but it is a unifying theme that pleases

Months before the WCIT was held in December in Dubai, American lobbying
groups attacked the ITU and its proposals for internationalized Internet
governance incessantly, with unconditional support from Google. What plot
were they denouncing? What crime was the ITU guilty of? Simply, asking for
an international treaty update that all signatories would be bound to
endorse and respect. One of the driving forces behind the hysteria was the
idea that diplomatic negotiations occurred behind closed doors, away from
civil society and industrial stakeholders. Critics invoked the specter of a
takeover hatched by Russia and China and, in a general manner, by

Yet the so-called ‘closed’ Dubai doors were largely wide open. Each ITU
member state was free to establish its delegation without limits to numbers
or quality, and especially to inform whomever they wished without
restraint, before, during or after the conference. The American delegation
alone included almost 120 delegates selected from the elite of the US
Internet industry, civil society and government. Two watchwords were given
to this multitude: “the word Internet shall not be included in the new
treaty” and “do not talk to journalists without authorization.” All this in
the name of web freedom.

More surprising was the European position in Dubai. No mandate was given
for the delegation to vote or engage the signature of the European Union
(EU). Cyprus, occupying the rotating presidency of the EU, monopolized the
microphone, with other member states far less vocal, including France and
Germany. In contrast, the Swedish and British representatives were working
in full swing. Were the compromises negotiated following WCIT so dangerous
for Europe? No. Tellingly, the absence of conditions preventing EU
agreement was confirmed in a confidential internal memo (DS 1335/13) from
the EU Council on 24 February. “At this stage, there is or remains no
obvious reason justifying a conflict between the new Treaty (proposed in
Dubai) and the benefits.” It was already known as such before Dubai.

The argument put forward by the EU to not support the Dubai update of the
International Telecommunications Regulations was linked to the proposal to
use in the new treaty the expression “all operators” rather than
“recognized operating agencies.” The reason for this – non-authorized
extension of the treaty. Seeking to maintain good diplomatic relations, it
was possible to sign the treaty while imposing a “reservation” on the point
of disagreement. Its radical strategy led the American delegation to
totally reject this proposal, while signing instead some of the treaty
proposals that its own delegation approved during the session.

This May in Geneva, hostilities continued. In more limited terms but still
very clearly, the US opposed any involvement by the ITU and its committee
of member states in the system of Internet governance. Such a perspective
would allow for the definition of universal principles akin to those
already in operation for telephony and satellites. Accepting this logic
would shift some of the Internet power away from Washington’s authority.
With any such international law ratified by the US, the request from the
CIA to transfer all user information from private operators like Verizon,
Google and others to intelligence services would be made more difficult.
However, the US has never embraced multilateralism and remains amongst
those counties ranked lowest globally in regards to the number of treaties
or conventions ratified.

A few days ago, during a WTPF session – an intergovernmental forum under
the aegis of the ITU – Brazil submitted an opinion for endorsement, which
was met with consensus. “Governments worldwide should discuss Internet
governance in the framework of the ITU, as a crucial element in the
multi-stakeholder system.” The American response, supported by Sweden, the
United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany was, in essence, “come see us
in Washington, we will see what we can do for you.” The committee remained
calmed, but was clearly outraged by this arrogance. What place do
governments have in connection to the Internet under international law? The
US and its digital industry dominate in every respect. The Verizon affair
becomes ever more important because it is this same US administration
opposed to a dialogue between states to settle universal rules and

The worldwide digital space is in danger. We, the citizens of the world,
are equally in danger. We need a better and truly democratic
multi-stakeholder model and governments to be bound by robust international
law when most needed – to start with, the US government and its industrial

Pierre Dandjinou
Cotonou - 229 90 087784 / 66566610
Dakar 221 77 639 30 41
skype : sagbo1953
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: https://lists.afrinic.net/pipermail/africann/attachments/20130827/a385cd47/attachment-0001.htm

More information about the AfrICANN mailing list