Internet Governance and the Domain Name System: Issues for Congress

Internet Governance and the Domain Name System: Issues for Congress
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New Releases. Description The Internet is often described as a "network of networks" because it is not a single physical entity, but hundreds of thousands of interconnected networks linking hundreds of millions of computers around the world. As such, the Internet is international, decentralized, and comprised of networks and infrastructure largely owned and operated by private sector entities.

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As the Internet grows and becomes more pervasive in all aspects of modern society, the question of how it should be governed becomes more pressing. Other books in this series. Add to basket. Legislative Branch Congressional Research Service. Border Security Congressional Research Service. Child Welfare Congressional Research Service. Iran Congressional Research Service. Bee Health Congressional Research Service. Requests for surveillance of US citizens are apparently subject to approval by an independent judge, whereas apparently such approval is not required for surveillance of non-US citizens.

If this is correct, then Prism is an example of the well-known tendency of empires to accord special rights to their own citizens [xli]. Apparent agreements between the US and Europe to share information on Prism [xlii] , and between the US and the Russian Federation to cooperate to improve ICT security [xliii] , are not likely to alleviate perceptions of continuing colonialism and imperialism, especially given the US refusal to agree to any language regarding cooperation on security matters during the World Conference on International Telecommunications WCIT [xliv].

And an apparent US intent to conduct offensive cyberwarfare activities [xlv] is also not likely to alleviate perceptions of imperialism. Further, the current Internet governance model allows US entities to influence the economic and policy authority of other nations and indeed even, to some extent, of the US itself [xlvi]. Indeed, the flow of funds of Internet traffic is less favorable to developing countries than was the flow of funds of traditional voice traffic prior to liberalization.

In this light, it is not surprising that, as the cited Internet technologist [li] puts the matter:.

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Their stated concern is that were they to pass control over to an international organization then it's a distinct risk that this organization would be captured by hostile national interests and the consequent risk, as they state it, is that the open nature of the Internet would be destroyed. The US is not alone in this view and many other countries perceive the potential of a similar form of threat and see the US role as either a positive force or, at worst, they see this as the lesser of many potential evils.

One can wonder whether this contributes to the relatively unfavorable situation of developing countries with respect to Internet access. From this point of view, the full set of users of the international Internet interconnection IIC infrastructure should each bear a portion of the cost, according to its use of the infrastructure.

The first and most important is still the cost of international Internet bandwidth. The tariffs for connection between Africa and Europe bear no comparison with the much lower charges applied between Europe and North America or even between Asia and Europe. These high tariffs are the result of an absence of competition in the international Internet connection market and of the current Internet interconnection model. The market is in the hands of a limited number of commercial groups which include the major operators, former incumbent operators and various financial consortia.

This market is somewhat non-transparent and monopolistic. In addition to the economic domination, there is also a tendency for the developed countries to impose certain policy choices on developed countries. Member States shall cooperate - consistent with their national laws [and respective international obligations] - to provide this information to the Member State concerned. Objections to the inclusion of such a provision included statements to the effect that it could lead to violations of freedom of speech.

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As a former senior US official put the matter [xiii] :. Currently, an important aspect of the Internet is governed by a private sector, international organization called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ICANN , which manages and oversees some of the critical technical underpinnings of the Internet such as the domain name system and Internet Protocol IP addressing. For convenience that document is reproduced in Annex 1 of this paper. According to the U. There may be times, however, where we are not able to fulfill your request, for example, if applicable law prohibits our compliance. Internet Structure and Organization Resources management and allocation Bernard. Many of the national laws and regulations pertain to user behavior on the Internet.

Further, at WCIT developed countries strongly opposed proposals from developing countries to include provisions in the ITRs regarding cooperation on improving on security and combating spam, again, on the grounds that such provisions could threaten freedom of speech. But in fact the provisions in question could not threaten freedom of speech; on the contrary, cooperation on such matters is more likely to preserve freedom of speech. In the absence of cooperation, countries have greater freedom to implement domestic restrictions and surveillance.

Indeed, some commentators have suggested that the revelations of such unilateral US actions might increase calls for changes in the current Internet governance structures.

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One can already hear the chortles of President Putin. One can only imagine the schadenfreude of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, as he met Barack Obama in California last weekend. Is there also techno-imperialism? In addition to the economic and policy domination noted above, there is also a certain imposition by developed countries of technical norms on developed countries. This imposition arises because the entities that produce the technical norms used for the Internet are developed in organizations such as IETF and ICAN that are open to direct participation by individuals; [lxiv] h owever, there are barriers to participation in those organizations, including the ability to speak English, to travel, and having sufficient technical knowledge, and indeed some of those organizations have been criticized as lacking the consensus of a sufficiently broad community [lxv].

Further, certain key norms are developed by private companies and imposed de facto without formal input from users apart of course from the input that arises when users refuse to use a particular product or service. In competitive markets, this is normal: consumers vote with their feet and no other form of input is required. But not all Internet markets are competitive, and norms developed by individual companies appear to be growing in importance. A s a well respected technologist puts the matter in the context of a discussion regarding the slow rate of the transition to IPv6 [lxviii] :.

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The drivers for such larger players tend towards risk aversion, conservatism and increased levels of control across their scope of operation. The same trends of market aggregation are now appearing in content provision, where a small number of content providers are exerting a dominant position across the entire Internet.

Reliance on intellectual property rights such as copyrights, patents, and trade secrets are some of the means used to exercise such control [lxix]. Such techno-imperialism is not motivated just by the economic interests of private companies, it is also motivated by the sincere belief of some technologists that they know best what should be done [lxx].

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Unfortunately, the record shows that the choices made by the technologists are not always the ones best suited to real-world applications. Indeed, in general, technologies such as printing, railroads, steam-powered ships, gasoline-powered automobiles, airplanes, etc. Thus it would seem reasonable to expect that non-technologists might wish to impose restrictions on the Internet technologies.

It is not surprising that technologists resist calls for such restrictions; what is less obvious is why developed countries tend also to resist such calls. A possible explanation is that the interests of the technologists are conflated with the economic and policy interests of the developed countries, so that traditional colonialism is conflated with techno-imperialism. The way forward? If indeed we are in a situation akin to colonialism, and if we accept that this situation is not desirable because it is obviously not consistent with the democratic ideal that is widely accepted world-wide at present , then we should seek ways to change the situation.

Various steps can be envisaged to encourage discussion of changes:. Regarding point 4 above, one solution could be that the US relinquishes its current privileged role, with the existing structures remaining as they are.

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That is, there would be no new formal agreements involving governments, and the current contracts and agreements with the US government would be discontinued. For convenience that document is reproduced in Annex 1 of this paper.

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More recently, it has been proposed to consider discussing proposals to [lxxvii] :. One can also consider a federated model, with much greater diversity than the present model, that it, separate networks that interconnect in specific ways. At some point, the various options presented above should be discussed seriously, with the understanding that the status quo is not considered satisfactory by all.

As suggested elsewhere [lxxx] , the ITU would appear to be a proper forum in which to conduct some of those discussions. Annex 1. The Internet Community Considering,. Is of the view,. Also recognizing,.

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Strongly encourages,. The Signatories agree:. The self-regulatory framework under this MoU shall consist of:. The role of the Depository includes:. The iPOC shall dissolve when CORE appoints its representatives at its first plenary meeting at which time the groups and organizations listed above are invited to appoint their representatives.

In most of the developing world, 2. See 2. Knopf, p. Started an Internet War? Weber and Ulrike I.

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Page Content Page Content 9. Contact us Privacy notice Accessibility. Issues :. Contribution :. Introduction Empires have always striven to improve communications: early well-known examples are Roman roads [i] and the message system of the Mongol empire [ii]. A Short History of the Internet It is worth recalling that the invention and early deployment of the Internet [v] were funded by the US Defence Department Advanced Projects Agency DARPA , in competition with the parallel developments of comparable technologies under the Open Systems Interface OSI umbrella [vi] ; the OSI work was carried out by private companies former telecommunications monopolies and their captive manufacturers, together with computer companies, in particular those competing against the dominant company of the time, International Business Machines IBM.

A Short History of Internet Governance It is important to note that the early discussions regarding Internet governance were focused on reducing the historical role of the US government and on finding multi-lateral solutions, and these discussions were carried out in a manner that would subsequently be referred to as multi-stakeholder.

Perceptions of the US role Not surprisingly, not all countries are comfortable with the role played by the United States with respect to Internet governance. As a former senior US official put the matter [xiii] : Defence of status quo is perceived as saying the US created the Internet, the US controls the Internet, US corporations profit disproportionately from the Internet, US security services have privileged access to everything that traverses the Internet.

The real issue But for most developing countries the real issue is not whether or not the US is exercising an asymmetric role, but whether the results of the current Internet governance model are consistent with the aspirations of developing countries. The multi-stakeholder approach Because the Internet is different from other networks, its governance is not the same as that of other networks. Is this colonialism? Accept comparison with other infrastructures, in particular the mobile telephone infrastructure.

Perhaps this difference in growth is at least partly related to the fact that the governance of the GSM infrastructure is rather more traditional than the governance of the Internet infrastructure or perhaps not, but the matter should be discussed seriously, and not dismissed out of hand. Seek an agreement that gives equal rights to all countries, that is, address the current asymmetric role of the US government.