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CPSR Proceedings: The Future of Global Internet Administration, Sep 1999, Alexandria, VA, U.S.A.
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR)

Governing the Commons:
The Future of Global Internet Administration
September 24-25, 1999, Alexandria, VA, U.S.A.


Tony Rutkowski
President, NGI Associates

[This summary prepared by Harish Bhatt of CPSR]

Mr Rutkowski began his opening remarks by asking the [rhetorical] question of why ICANN-GAC should even exist.  He stated that the organization was essentially a two-person function which had been needlessly exploded into a hopelessly complex organizational labyrinth.  He maintained that the structure the organization had adopted was based on a European regulatory model, and that from a public policy perspective, the existence of ICANN-GAC was untenable.  He suggested that the process by which ICANN-GAC came into being, and its subsequent actions were unlawful and contrary to longstanding policies.  He proposed that any of several viable alternatives were more appropriate and much better choices.

Moving along, Mr. Rutkowski recognized the historical contributions of the late Jon Postel and his colleague Joyce Reynolds in the early years of global Internet administration.  He suggested that -- as in the early years of the Internet -- the real functions that were necessary to be performed to ensure a smooth running public and global Internet, had not changed by much.  Essentially, he felt that three main tasks needed to be performed, and he also provided his estimate of the level of effort that he felt was necessary for each task.  The three tasks that he mentioned were:

  1. Keep small databases of miscellaneous protocol values that you don’t see or care about (1/2 person function)
  2. Facilitate as required, coordination among the existing IP Address regional registries (1/4 person function)
  3. Decide as required, what additions or changes get made to the legacy DNS root zone file (1/4 person function)
By way of comparison, he remarked that even in the entire arena of global telecom systems, the equivalent functions were being performed by only two people in Geneva, Switzerland.  To illustrate his point regarding the disparity between the simplicity of the administrative tasks involved in running the global Internet on the one hand, and the [unnecessarily] complex organization structure that had been adopted by ICANN-GAC, he presented a high-level organization structure chart for the ICANN-GAC organization, and another chart depicting the detailed structure of the DNSO constituencies.  He indicated that both schematic diagrams had been published on the following public web site on the World Wide Web --

Elaborating on his earlier comment that the ICANN-GAC had adopted an European regulatory model, he observed that the structure of ICANN-GAC had been proposed at an October 1997 CILP meeting by an EC representative.  He indicated that the proposal was drafted along the lines of the EU self-governance model, where governments made the policies and industry was responsible for implementing them.  He maintained that the EC had negotiated result with administration and had inserted key features into ICANN-GAC instruments.  He noted that ICANN is required to submit all substantive actions in advance to GAC for its review and findings, including the GAC's determination of relevant law and policy.  He commented that an excessive forced regionalization in ICANN elections dilutes role of most affected parties, and the ability of the United States to promote minimalist regulatory and institutional values.

Mr. Rutkowski then went on to analyze ICANN-GAC from a public policy perspective.  He stated that ICANN-GAC was "a private government-supported corporation with a monopoly franchise to exercise potentially unlimited regulatory authority over the entire Internet."  He remarked that ICANN-GAC was insulated from accountability by organizational shells, and that every constituency wired into the organizational structure of ICANN-GAC served to maximize contention and conflicts of interest within the organization.  He suggested that ICANN-GAC as an organization was susceptible to being "easily captured" and that labyrinthine complexity within the organization precluded effective participation and promoted control by insiders.  He stated that ther was no due process, transparency, reservations or other safeguards that were built into ICANN-GAC's domestic and international regulatory systems.

Mr. Rutkowski then suggested that ICANN-GAC had engaged in a "litany of unlawful and abusive actions."  By way of evidence, he provided the following three examples:

  1. DOC: Acting without authority; pursuing a wholly inappropriate role; maintaining a federal corporation; representing the US and violating EO 12046 process; contrary to Computer II/GATS policies
  2. GAC: Creating an intergovernmental body under ICANN corporation; operation contrary to ICANN Bylaws; actions contrary to international law; contrary to US practice of international law; contrary to Computer II/GATS policies
  3. ICANN: Government corp in disguise; acting as a private regulatory agency; managing private sector competition; closed; captured; provides minimal due process; violates its own provisions with impunity; displays public prejudices; not a 501(c)(3).
Mr. Rutkowski proposed that alternatives that were more appropriate [to ICANN-GAC], might be better choices.  He noted that the field is littered with failed institutional schemes: e.g. President Wilson's UECU, President Roosevelt's IFRB, President Johnson's Comsat, President Carter's OSI, …  Commenting on the notion of developments in connection with the global Internet occuring at a hitherto unprecedented and rapid pace, he stated that it was also possible that Internet institutions could go wrong at “Internet speed.”

In concluding his opening remarks, Tony Rutkowski asked the [rhetorical] question of what would actually happen if ICANN-GAC ceased to exist?  He suggested that nothing functionally adverse would occur because ICANN doesn't run anything.  He felt that competition would continue through existing agreements and antitrust laws (who manages competition for the rest of the Internet?)  He commented that we could see some possible attempts by other governments to force an institutional alternative - but such attempts occured all the time anyway.  He suggested that alternatives would begin to emerge in due course of time, and stated that DNS alternatives already existed, and alternatives in other areas would [eventually] also emerge.  For example, he suggested that DNS server operators could simply cooperate among themselves.  Over time he saw the emergence of an acceptable coordinating organization -- "NANOG plus" -- which would be a government chartered corporation with real oversight and safeguards.  Finally, he cautioned that if ICANN did manage to survive, it would be a lightning rod for endless mischief.

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