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April 13, 2014

Video of Tom Giovanetti Speaking on the U.S. Relinquishing Control of Internet Root Zone Functions

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ICAC IANA CSPAN 1I was honored to speak at a panel discussion on Friday sponsored by the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee on whether transferring control of the Internet root zone functions from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce to some yet-to-be-determined multistakeholder organization is a good thing.

The briefing was televised on CSPAN, and the archive video can be seen here.

If you're interesed in this topic I hope you'll watch the whole video. My main points are that:

  1. You don't want a UN body administering anything important related to the Internet. Trust me on this one.
  2. True, no one is talking about the UN  taking control of the Internet--now.
  3. But there's no question that there is intense international pressure to have a UN-type organization take control of Internet governance.
  4. The question is why were we able to prevent that from happening last year, when the majority of countries at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) voted to do exactly that. Was it simply because the U.S. still controls the root zone functions?
  5. The current president of ICANN said earlier this year that the U.S. was doing a "superb" (his word) job of safeguarding the root zone functions of the Internet. If so, what is the compelling reason for giving them up?
  6. ICANN does not have a very good track record of accountability. This is almost non-controversial.
  7. If it's "inevitable" that the U.S. must give up these functions--if we have no choice--that's a failure of diplomacy and a result of the NSA betrayal of Internet security.

I was the only person on the panel willing to question the wisdom of this decision and strongly urging caution. Had I not been on the panel, it would have been a fairly technical discussion where all panelists basically agreed. So thanks to the ICAC for inviting me to speak and thus adding some balance to the panel.

Having gone back and watched the video a couple of times this weekend, I'm struck by how consistently my questions were avoided. Early in the video, around the 28 minute mark, the moderator point-blank asks Fiona from NTIA to answer my concerns, and she completely dodges answering the concerns. In fact, if you watch the video, you'll find that Fiona retreats into restating the IANA functions and NTIA's role almost every time. She never addresses the concerns I expressed about how do we prevent a UN takeover at some point down the road. The closest she comes is expressing faith in the multistakeholder process. That's it.

Good luck with that.

There's also more than a whiff of arrogance on Fiona's part that's manifested in her confidence that anyone who questions the wisdom of what the Obama administration is doing here must not understand the facts. But I'm used to that kind of arrogance from the government class. Water off a duck's back.

P.S.-- Much of the international pressure to make this transition is coming from Brazil. Interestingly, this story appeared in the New York Times Sunday about what a disaster Brazil is, including the current administration. I have to ask: THESE are the folks that are pressuring us into surrendering control of key Internet functions? Really?

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