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[rpd] Unaddressed queries from AGMM - the "capitalist" vs "socialist"

Paul Hjul hjul.paul at
Thu Jul 1 11:44:53 UTC 2021

Primarily in response to Ronald Guilmette - so cutting and pasting to
comment - but I am obviously focusing in on the real question which Wolner
is asking which is whether Afrinic has a valid basis to presume itself to
be the dictator of resources post allocation. It's quite clear that there
are some members of Afrinic and some individuals associated with Afrinic
who really would like it to be the case that it is.

Well, there are clearly two very different ways to look at this.

I disagree with viewing the "conflict" as being of a binary nature. While I
agree with a lot of the sentiment and approach which your analysis brings I
think this is an important point of disagreement.

There are at least four different ways of viewing things:
The first is to view things in a "money does the talking", "dog eat dog"
type matra (one of the two propositions you advance) wherein good faith,
rule of law and the like are at best nuisances and things to circumvent as
much as possible. This approach is unsustainable, wholly anathema to the
public interest etc .... Frankly this is a mantra that promotes criminals.
Of course often the greed worship aligned with this view is effective and
efficient and so people may tolerate the outcomes ignoring the dangers on
the horizon.

The second is to view some dictator as the necessary leviathan to control
the resources according to the needs (as judged by the dictator) of the
proletariat - this approach is unsustainable for the same reasons as the
first. But make no mistake this view may have some points of radical
departure from the first but it has the same fundamentalist disregard for
the sanctity of rights, representations and agreements.

The third view is like the first except that it doesn't glorify the
defiance of good faith and it tries to argue for its legitimacy through
appeals to the rule of law and good faith and the sanctity of contracts.
The truth of the Internet is that it was borne out of an approach of
non-commercialism (until 1993) and was quite a communitarian outlooked
venture but it was not "communist", instead it was voluntarist and the same
legal principles as govern a functioning capitalist society have always
been paramount. This is why there is a propensity to grandfather in
"legacy" rights protections and so on. Rights at law whether by contract or
property are respected as is behaving in a civil and gentlemanly fashion.
While the lofty ideals of this view are oft unpractised and there may be an
extent to which holders of the view are inclined to err on the side of one
or the other of the approaches of the first two views on a very basic level
there is a greater difference between the third view and the first two than
between the first two.

The fourth view is far worse than the first or the second, it is more
cynical and self-serving and it is the view of a contrived unethical
non-honest tyrant. In this view a person pretends to support the second
view while also clandestinely engaging with individuals in the first view.
I fear that it isn't a conflict between the first and second view which
dominates the long running crisis in areas of Internet governance but
rather the imbalance in power between those subscribing to the third view
and those subscribing to the fourth.

This is why when individuals on this mailing list claim Afrinic as a
"regulator", when they embark on bad faith appeals to the needs of
development on the continent as an excuse to drive practices deleterious to
growth and so on it is quite clear that there is a faction of contrived
unethical non-honest tyrants who are keeping Afrinic in a paralysis of
dysfunction in order to provide cover to others in that faction who have
been entangled in systemic and ongoing corruption. Some of them need to be
put on a rickety boat with lions and other ferocious animal pairs to let
said animals take care of them.

Being the kind of jaded iconoclastic person that I am, I have told friends

> that really, in my opinion, these radically divergent views on the role

> of the state in economic affairs will, for most ordinary people, come down

> to just a simple choice: Would you rather be ripped off by corrupt thieves

> in government or by corrupt thieves in industry?

I fear you aren't jaded enough on this point as you view it a choice
between thieves in government or thieves in industry. The truth is that
there is a worse outcome, namely: one group of thieves in industry have
thieves in "government" in their pocket. Of course perhaps most importantly
Afrinic isn't a government nor is it a regulator, but the manner of
behaviour fits that mould. And where Afrinic lacks government-ness it can
actually be worse and thieves isn't quite the right term nor is contrived
unethical non-honest tyrant (or an acronym for same) but I think it is
close enough.
But this is exactly what is being sought in various forms of conduct over
the years. The way to steer to at least manageable levels of being ripped
off is to go with a third view - to take the actual proper rule making
process and the AGREEMENTS that parties have entered into as sacrosanct.

The way we reduce the extent to which ordinary people choose which of the
evils to fall prey to is to take bold statements of a right to be a
dictator quite seriously. For people to be angry when somebody feels they
have a right to introduce uncertainty into transactions
Also again Afrinic is not a state, it is not even an organ of a state. To
call it a regulator or to ignore the extent to which it has no greater
privilege in Mauritius (at least until for some nefarious reason it is
removed from that state) than a membership organization like a church.
Moreover if one were to consider some sort of nexus to a government whose
policies and objectives and mantra would apply we'd traverse through ICANN
to the federal government of the United States.

> To return to the point however there is an argument to be made in favor of

> treating IP addresess as just simple (mostly fungible) commodities. I

> myself

> have frequently made this argument. I do so every time I see that some

> spammer has squatted on a piece of unused and fallow IP address space.

> I always say "Gee! If these IP address were worth more, then the real

> owner would take better care of them and would not let mere spammers

> spoil their long term value!" (A similar argument has been made frequently

> about "legal" land ownership in the third world. It is said that because

> many people in the third world have simply lived on "their" land for

> generations, even though they have no legal documents they could use to

> assert ownership, this is a HUGE problem, because not being "legal" owners,

> the people tend to take less good care of the land than they otherwise

> would.)

Here is the rub and the complication. IP address space is undeniably
valuable if it wasn't then nobody would be wanting to dictate policy around
it. When IPv4 based inter-networking was still an early experiment it
wasn't conceivable of there being a traded market for such integers. But
the economic realities are what they are. Sadly a lot of the value is also
prime for picking for wrongful purposes.
If the RIRs make it difficult for the legitimate owners to enjoy the
ability to use the asset but make it remarkably easy for a certain pool of
insiders to use it then of course there is an exercise of enrichment. The
current landscape favours the spammers. So when an employee of Afrinic is
able to identify opportunities to syphon off the asset they can do so - as
we saw happen. Even if the organization puts in dozens of efforts to
prevent malfeasance the temptation and risk remains a real point of
structural deficiency. Similarly if - as is currently the case - the holder
of the resources stands a risk of losing the resource by acting against
squatters or spammers then the best course of action is to keep the
allocation on the asset artificially preserved through inefficient
utilization or simply allowing whichever squatter is there to use it.
Consider the situation of an enterprise who have an address space
allocation it costs money to look after things properly and the endless
justifying of having the asset when they make a query - therefore no matter
how much network operators may be unhappy they simply have no more legal
right to the address space than the current shareholders of the enterprises
who received the address space. If you want to make it possible to get the
space used more efficiently let the market place sort it out. Allocations
have always been somewhat of a homesteading exercise.
Similarly if Afrinic allows a group of squatters to occupy addresses
assigned in the name of a member (through an employee of Afrinic removing
the lawful representative of the member and Afrinic continuously engaging
with the squatters) they cannot turn around and say "well the squatters
weren't using the asset on the basis it was intended for on allocation".
And again the incentives are currently stacked that a person (usually a
company) to whom an allocation is made finding themselves without control
of a resource and the resource being allocated in effect in name only is
pretty real.

As matters currently stand, a connectivity to home provider (you consumer
ISPs) has little reason to shift more consumers towards IPv6 and the costs
of CGNAT per customer (especially in nuisance costs) means that it is done
when ISPs are hoping to get more public IPv4 address space (which will
ultimately represent a hording of the resource in the long term). If
everybody felt that they have a responsibility to their shareholders et al
ro maximize the valuable utilization of the address space an entire array
of things would fall into place and the invisible hand would arise. I don't
see it as inordinately cynical to say "things have evolved to the point
where a market approach to IP4 address space is the most efficient" there
is a natural problem of parties trying to create artificial shortages or
stocking up for purely speculative value but both of those problems are
exacerbated rather than aided by an ideology and bureaucratic transfer

Okay but the culprit of corruption is gone and we need to improve things so
lets try to embrace a purist view of IP addresses? Not so fast, let's
consider what the result of a fuzzy nuisance view of IP address space
results in (where its a resource you want to reduce nuisance): well it
means the proper oversight falls away and individuals whose technical
know-how exceeds their ethical scruples and some functionaries at Afrinic
are able to engage in corrupt activity. Which is exactly what happened. I
don't believe that it is currently happening in the same manner and the
efforts to clean things up are commendable but consider for a moment what
noise has been generated from certain brigades since the public uncovering
of fraudulent behaviour. In fact I am quite confident in the current CEO
but the Board thus far has continuously failed to affirm its commitment to
legality and to act at all times in good faith - which is why I asked what
I asked at the AGMM. I do not understand how an IP address in the hands of
a network operator creates jobs on the continent - if anything for the
reasons set out above I think this view of avoiding global market realities
undermines the incentives to innovate and transition.
It is also worth remembering that this fiasco isn't arising in respect of
various other internet number resources for the simple reason that the cost
is not mapped by the asset value. Consider for a minute a cynical
proposition of saying all members who have IPv4 assignments sell their
address space to foreign business interests at 25 dollars an address:
Firstly absent other shenanigans (which arise from unfretted tolerance of
the first view) the inflow of revenue will find itself either re-invested
by the member into the industry or will make its way out to shareholders
and be subjected to taxations of various kinds.
Secondly the incentive shift in favour of deploying IPv6 will be
considerable - there is a reason Africa is so far behind India in IPv6
deployment and any honest analysis of things will tell you that India has
been unfairly treated in terms of the IPv4 resource distribution. Of course
this has not stopped a massive digital economy from growing and booming in
India and it may well be that the need to innovate applied and that the
resource curse is playing out.
Thirdly the misuse of the address space will be much more effectively

The choice is therefore not between being pillaged by politicians or
pillaged by foreign carpetbaggers but rather between fulfilling the purpose
of the formation of Afrinic and not. To go back to the ICP-2 policy:

> However, in order to ensure globally fair distribution of IP address

> space, and to minimise address space fragmentation, it is expected that the

> number of RIRs will remain small.

You should notice that the term "fair distribution" makes no alignment of
retention. There is also a clear objective of minimising address space
fragmentation. The entire problem of the global nature of address space
utilization evaporates when it is understood that an organization that is
an LIR joins one or more RIRs (in accordance with the membership policies
of same) but is fulfilling the same role and has the same asset distributed
to it. There is no rational or principled basis ever arising to think of IP
addresses as somehow "belonging" to regions.

(it might be worth noting that I am using the term asset and am not
characterising IP address space as property but the same economic behaviour
implications arise)

If we want to live up to the "according to needs" betterment of mankind
approach which fostered the development of the Internet rather than trying
to defend policies and mentalities in which RIRs act as rule of law evading
dictatorships we must recognize the commercial value and interests of
lawful holders of rights arising out of contractual relations and devise
policies as to how the organization can drive up cooperation and an
efficient space. The first step to doing this is for the Board of Afrinic
to commit itself to good faith. The second step is to ask what policy
obstacles are preventing the efficient and proper use of allocated address
space in a way that promotes industry growth. The third step is to ask what
policies should dictate the allocation of address space which is lawfully
reclaimed (such as where a member declares insolvency) or voluntarily
returned to Afrinic or redelegated to Afrinic by IANA

The problem with trying to farm out resources according to believed needs
is that the greedy will always find ways to lie about their needs and the
lazy will never need less than given. This problem isn't intractable when
you are adopting a policy of distribution but when you apply it as a means
of re-distribution the ordinary will suffer to the benefit of the corrupt.
What Wollner's first question speaks to is this re-distribution assumption
which is so deleterious. Of course the fact of the matter is that the
efforts to prevent any open market from arising simply means that a

Lets not pretend that ultimately Coase Theorem applies and once the
resources are stockpiled by somebody that they won't then be monetized at
the market price.

It boggles my mind that there is a massive effort to deny lawful holders of
the enjoyment of the asset which they have lawfully garnered (one may find
certain behavior unsavory and not in the spirit of the community but that
is a far cry from denying - - one isn't justified to rob a prostitute
because of your disagreement with the morality of his trade) when
unallocated address space is appearing to be a mis-announced and used as a
means of network abuse for which policies for signing same is required. It
is also unconscionable for Afrinic whose former employees are by Afrinic's
own admission implicated in a massive exercise of corruption can be trusted
to go on a redistribution run.
Basically why on earth should we be trying to claw back resources in proper
use (even if we don't like the use) when there are resources needing to be
allocated out. Surely our focus on policy should be in answer to the
question of how to achieve optimal development of the industry on this
content with those resources lawfully in need of allocation.

Thus Afrinic needs a policy as to what to do with lawfully and properly
reclaimed address space (and address space returned voluntarily) after a
freeze period is passed. The sort of policy which I would wish to see is
one which ties new allocations to a commitment of investment in the
continent - you can absolutely legitimately provide that should the member
to whom such resources are allocated reduce their investment level in new
ICT infrastructure in the continent that such reduction will be a breach
and will result in reclamation but this needs to be properly set out in the
agreement rather than a result of playing in bad faith. To continue to
issue small blocks on the basis of a claimed number of customers will
simply see a continued growth in the number of members who take up a /22
and whose purpose is for the non-commercial organization to inflate its
membership fee collections. Same also discourages overdue consolidation and
so on and above all means address wastage and fragmentation.
The sooner rough consensus is reached on the position that IPv4 is largely
a horse which has bolted and is now properly in the commercial space (and
Afrinic is a non-commercial entity) and that rather than trying to dictate
winners and losers from that resource the function of the RIR is to promote
the industry and effect technology transitions. The end of Vika Mpisa's
term on the board gives me some hope that the days of the fourth view are
limited but I fear until there is an emphatic demonstration of an attitude
of eschewing the belief that Afrinic is entitled to behave as a dictator
without a state from across the board and staff and until participants in
these sorts of mailing lists voice a clear rejection of tolerating
malfeasance things will not improve.

As a disclaimer and disclosure I signed two letters concerning Afrinic's
issuance of correspondence threatening commercial interest members address
space with reclamation last week. Further in between starting this email
and finalizing it I've received a threat of membership revocation from the
hostmaster - although not in a form that is sufficiently formal to regard
it as a 30 day notice.

Paul Hjul
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