[governance] Losing focus: IGF and "technical discussions"

David Allen David_Allen_AB63 at post.harvard.edu
Sun Jan 29 22:19:45 EST 2006

This seems to me to push onto key turf, Seiiti, if we want to get our 
hands around the prize.

The years-long struggle at WSIS is the backdrop, the setting, for me 
anyway.  On one side was the argument that, to preserve free 
expression, we could not hazard governments to bureaucratize the net. 
Some might throttle it.  On the other side, the argument held that we 
need just the reverse - we need a little more regularity, and 
accountability.  (Overlaid on this dispute was a more visceral 
disagreement - linked 
<http://davidallen.org/papers/Internet_Governance-A4.pdf>here is a 
brief piece, for the final negotiation, that goes a little further on 
the story).

But I believe we will find both arguments, from each side, are right. 
The only question is how to fit the two opposites together ...

How can this be?  The story of the rise of the net is one of 
alternation between innovation where creativity flowers freely, on 
the one side, and the more orderly deliberations for 
standards-setting, on the other.  All that worked seamlessly, when 
confined to a group of like-minded engineers, the IETF.  As the net 
took on global significance though - and many assorted actors got 
into the mix - what had previously been an easy dance between 
innovation and standardization (even if subtle and complex) became 
much harder to negotiate.  I think it not too much to say, that 
problem - to expand the scope of participation (and not just among 
nations, but among the many, many different interests and styles) - 
directly triggered the struggle underlying WSIS.

In a net world, but with many more actors, how can we preserve the 
fruits of innovation alongside a stable base of regularity, when that 
orderliness and security are necessary in the first place to take the 
risks of innovation?

That is the thorny question it seems should most vex IGF.  You will 
say, but my goodness, governance is so much more than innovation and 
standards, however arduous it may be to do both.  That is right of 
course.  But the underlying challenge - to maintain order at the same 
time that we _also_ try to let a thousand flowers bloom - proves, I 
believe it will turn out, to be the same conundrum we confront in any 
number of the issue areas calling out from internet governance.

This is not the place to make the case, beyond stating it simply, 
baldly.  If correct, it gives both sides in the long WSIS struggle 
each a core stake in these next discussions ... both for the freedom 
staked on one side and for the accountability staked on the other.

Yours below takes us into some of the thickets such an approach would 
have to navigate.

--Companies that would standardize, for their interests, but perhaps 
not for broader interests?  The classic story of Internet 
standardization has the engineer shedding personal interests, once an 
innovation has been trialed in 'running code.'  To come up with new 
code in the first place, the innovation in other words, the engineer 
tries for personal excellence; this may bring respect and an enhanced 
reputation among peers.  But once it is time to pick just which code 
will be standard, the welfare of the whole community takes precedence 
over any individual.  That is the sort of template such an approach 
would hold all actors and companies to.

--End-to-end?  Now we have stepped back from the incremental 
innovations, which are only possible when the big architectural 
innovation and choice - e2e - had already been made.  This is the 
discontinuous jump (call it a 'new paradigm' perhaps) that made so 
many of the later incremental steps possible.

Now today, the big architectural questions are in play again, for 
instance NGN on one side and the new net design efforts such as GENI 
on another.  Since these choices are of such fundamental importance 
to future possibilities for later, incremental innovation, presumably 
we care a great deal about sustaining the environment for these basic 
innovations.  We also care much more which choice is made, since 
follow-on innovation for whole societies - for all of us, really - is 
at stake.  This is akin to / can be analogized to the choice of 
dominant desktop OS.

Incidentally, if you take a look at work such as GENI, turns out that 
your pointer to security is one of the mainsprings there.  Also 
perhaps worth noting, the e2e question is not per se whether there 
will be intelligence in the core as well as the periphery.   Routers 
are intelligent enough.  The question is more than that.  So for 
instance, we want to understand how NGN impacts the possibility for 
innovation at the edges.  Are there other advantages or 
disadvantages?  That is just for starters ...

--Individual - "full" - participation in governance, such as 
standards-setting?  With 6 billion people on the globe and something 
like 5 billion still without a connection, we can see there is a 
perplexing problem, to get everyone to the table ...  But in fact, 
this does go to a core issue with the conceptualization laid out 
above:  That is adequate means of representation, so that a multitude 
of voices are somehow aggregated.  This 'architecture of community' - 
which in good circumstances succeeds to represent multiple voices - 
turns out I think to be one pivot for making the dance between order 
and freedom work.  Surely the question of 'good' representation is 
going to be central to IGF concerns.

Well, this has grown a great deal longer than it should ... but 
perhaps there is something useful.  I hope yours may lead us onto 
some new turf.

At 9:54 PM -0200 1/27/06, Seiiti Arata wrote:
>Hi - sorry for this late-post
>Thanks Bill for the support in discussing these issues related to 
>the future of the net. Indeed, I guess that the scope of Internet 
>governance must become wider: encompass not only the NGNs but also 
>ICT generally - I really think that Zittrain`s argument that if 
>changes to the network are difficult to make, the targets for 
>changing the architecture will be the computing devices at the ends.
>David wrote: May I suggest? Continuing to enable free-form 
>innovation, which is on display in these initiatives, is one of the 
>bottom-line imperatives ultimately before the IGF. In my sense 
>anyway, this will run in parallel with regulatory efforts that some 
>other concerns may engender (as Bill begins to unveil below).
>David, thanks for sharing your view. I agree with you on giving 
>preference to free-form innovation. This is exactly the reason of my 
>However, a low level of governance in developing ICT architecture 
>may allow the capture of final outcomes by the most powerful and 
>influent actors. These will easily have their models set as the 
>prevailing ones in the market even though in opposition to the 
>public interest in case there is no adequate level of governance.
>IMO, we shall not force innovation to use a specific standards 
>organization or procedure. What is needed instead is more awareness 
>of the impacts of the technologies under construction. And soft 
>mechanisms, like Recommendations from the IGF, would bring a 
>positive effect and higher level of governance.
>Two very extreme examples that show how industry (to take one 
>stakeholder for instance) tends from time from time to use 
>technologies to their interests (which is not necessarily harmonious 
>to the public interest):
>1) In early 1999, Intel was accused of adding serial numbers into 
>their computer chips. Check 
>http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9595_22-513735.html - It was necessary to 
>have civil liberties groups making pressure against the company to 
>block this tendency. If consumers were not organized or strong 
>enough, maybe we would be browsing with ID numbers today.
>2) December 2005, another "conspiracy theory" discovered: printers 
>being used to hide tracking dots. See: 
>http://www.eff.org/Privacy/printers/ Once again, a tricky 
>architectural feature with controversial effects was found. And the 
>civil liberties groups will have to use their power to put pressure 
>against companies to refrain from embedding such features into their 
>Of course, not every problem related to ICT architecture sounds like 
>an X-files episode like these two examples. DRMs for instance are 
>quite visible to the user: the limitations to the use of the 
>computing power are immediately felt when you can not play a certain 
>file into a certain device or print more than x copies of a doc. 
>When DRMs meet the trusted computing platform, limitations will be 
>even clearer. Will consumers have enough power to make a group made 
>of AMD, HP, IBM, Microsoft etc 
>(https://www.trustedcomputinggroup.org/home) change their computing 
>architectures? Will the market self-regulate and new companies 
>offering non-trusted computing rise as disruptors in a market in 
>which trusted computing becomes mainstream? I sincerely do not know 
>the answer.
>IMO currently the discussion on the governance aspects of 
>development of new technologies (including its following 
>transformation into standards when successful) is important. It is 
>necessary to discuss among stakeholders what certain technologies 
>will bring to the Information Society, to produce greater awareness. 
>Only then the "free market" will be "free". A free decision is only 
>taken when we know what options are available and what the 
>consequences will be. Otherwise, consumers will be supporting "de 
>facto" standards without knowing what they are really about.
>The IGF has a potential to add valuable contribution in this 
>respect. According to item 72. g. of the Tunis Agenda, the mandate 
>of the IGF is to "Identify emerging issues, bring them to the 
>attention of the relevant bodies and the general public, and, where 
>appropriate, make recommendations;". Further, generally its mandate 
>is related to facilitation of dialogue and enhance decision-making 
>transparency and everything else governance is about.
>One particular issue I believe can be further discussed in the IGF: 
>end-to-end. Many stakeholders and even the WGIG have made statements 
>during WSIS supporting the maintenance of the "end-to-end" 
>principle. Some were against it 
>What should that be really taken into consideration? Does e2e really 
>provide an innovative commons? What if the "rise of the middle" 
>(check RFC 3724 - 
>) can add greater security and stability? The answer does not 
>matter. What matters, in a good governance perspective, is that the 
>decisions related to the future design of the Internet and 
>surrounding ICTs are made with the full participation of all 
>stakeholders. And for that, more awareness is necessary. Working 
>groups under the IGF umbrella would be welcome, and the IGF itself 
>could be an open repository of papers, opinions etc. perhaps using a 
>wiki or other collaborative tool.
>On 1/24/06, David Allen <David_Allen_AB63 at post.harvard.edu> wrote:
>>  Additional perspective:
>>  The telco world has been evolving, to incorporate the rise of the
>>  net.  Bill makes clear how NGN is one model for the emerging, robust
>>  'new telco.'
>>  The Internet side has not been sitting still.  There are a number of
>>  initiatives underway.  One, fairly recent is GENI
>>  http://www.nsf.gov/cise/geni/ .  A just released 'snapshot' shows a
>>  third of a billion (US) dollar effort, for first work anyway
>>  http://www.geni.net/GENI-10-JAN-06.pdf .  A quick browse through some
>>  of the graphics in the 122 pages gives a sense of the scope.
>>  There are others.  Besides the fairly well known Internet2
>>  http://www.internet2.edu/ , Bill St. Arnaud's CANARIE recently linked
>>  to some others
>>  http://lists.canarie.ca/pipermail/news/2005/000177.html .  Engineers
>>  on this IG list (perhaps Ian?) can do a better job pointing us to the
>>  full picture, for instance to efforts outside the US.
>>  These are the same forces (and some of the same people) who unleashed
>>  the innovation that became the Internet, from a few decades ago.
>>  One of the more interesting questions is what might be the relation
>>  between telco NGN and these new visions/versions of a net.  The
>>  recent history left Bell heads on one side and Net heads on the
>>  other.  Recent practice at ITU-T, the standardization arm, has
>>  reached out to arrange for more coordination among international
>>  standards work, including especially with the IETF, on the net side
>>  of course.
>>  May I suggest?  Continuing to enable free-form innovation, which is
>>  on display in these initiatives, is one of the bottom-line
>>  imperatives ultimately before the IGF.  In my sense anyway, this will
>>  run in parallel with regulatory efforts that some other concerns may
>>  engender (as Bill begins to unveil below).
>>  This free-form innovation is IMO just one outcropping of freedom of
>>  expression, the touchstone for much of what powered WSIS debate, from
>>  both sides.  And will continue to be driving in IGF, again IMO.  (If
>  > we look for it in the 'principles,' 'transparent' comes closest.)
>>  David
>>  William Drake wrote, Tue, 24 Jan 2006 10:46:56 +0100:
>>  >Hi,
>>  >
>>  >I've deleted MMWG from the cc here, cross-posting filling my box.
>>  >
>>  >I strongly agree with the thrust of Seiiti's message. While this
>>  >list was the first place to seriously discuss the case for a broad
>>  >definition of IG, as was eventually embraced in the Tunis Agenda,
>>  >the conversation usually defaults back to deconstructing the
>>  >internal machinations of ICANN, and everything else slips from view.
>>  >Given the unresolved oversight fight in WSIS and the Tunis call for
>>  >a new globally applicable policy principles and enhanced cooperation
>>  >on core resources, one imagines the IGF will end up focusing on this
>>  >as well in the near-term. This is unquestionably key, but at the
>>  >same time, there is a lot going on in other issue-areas and
>>  >cooperative mechanisms that we're not talking about, but that is
>>  >really important to the future evolution of the net.
>>  >
>>  >Just to note one example, there is an enormous amount of work going
>>  >on among governments, telcos, manufacturers and others, most notably
>>  >but not only in the ITU, under the rubric of 'Next Generation
>>  >Networks' that is designed to promote shared rules and programs on
>>  >surveillance (oops, sorry, security and trust) and differentiated
>>  >levels of service in a convergent environment. This mirrors major
>>  >developments happening at the national level across the OECD region
>>  >and probably beyond. In the US context, in addition what the FCC's
>>  >been doing in its IP-enabled services proceeding, there's been some
>>  >potentially important legislative action. For example, to strengthen
>>  >cyberstalking prosecution tools, the recently passed reauthorization
>>  >of the Violence Against Women Act amends the Communications Act of
>>  >America by expanding the definition of a telecommunications device
>>  >to cover any device or software that uses the Internet, including
>>  >VOIP. This could place a big chunk of the net environment under US
>>  >telecom 'oversight' and strengthen the drive in the International
>>  >Law Enforcement Telecom Seminar and elsewhere to mandate the
>>  >build-in of forensics capabilities, etc. Companies like Verisign are
>>  >very much at the center of all this, but we only talk about the DNS
>>  >side of their houses.
>>  >
>>  >The IGF is supposed to focus inter alia on cross-cutting issues that
>>  >don't fall neatly within the scope of other bodies, and to promote
>>  >the application of the Geneva principles (multilateral,
>>  >multistakeholder, transparent, democratic) in such bodies. If CS
>>  >doesn't bother to promote these core parts of the mandate, probably
>>  >they will fall off the table. That'd be unfortunate, and we could
>>  >all pay for it in spades down the line.
>>  >
>>  >Best,
>>  >
>  > >Bill
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