[Politech] Milton Mueller replies to Politech over Verisign, ICANN column

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Thu Sep 25 2003 - 11:44:31 PDT

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    Previous Politech message:
    Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2003 22:04:46 -0400
    From: "Milton Mueller" <mueller@private>
    To: <declan@private>
    Subject: Response to Geist column
    If the Sitefinder incident can spark greater public interest
    in Internet governance then that's great, and Michael Geist's
    column does us a service by calling attention to it and
    highlighting its implications.
    But there's some very troubling implications in Michael's response.
    Consider, first, this:
     >Despite the Internet community's near unanimous outcry against the Site
     >Finder service, it quickly learned just how powerless it has become. ICANN,
     >the supposed steward of the domain name system, took until Friday evening
     >to issue a weak statement calling on VeriSign to voluntarily suspend the
     >Site Finder service while it reviewed the matter.
    The problem is that the ICANN regulatory system works on the basis
    of contract, and it's not clear whether what VeriSign did violates
    their contract. As critical as I am of ICANN and its regulatory system
    this kind of a flaw is NOT unique to ICANN - any system of regulation
    of private actors by public authorities has gray areas which allow
    private actors to do things that may not be in the public interest,
    requiring the authorities to adjust their laws, contracts, or franchises.
    Especially new regulatory regimes in new industries. So the rational response
    is for ICANN to act within its authority and to amend or clarify its contracts
    to prevent such things in the future. This episode is far from over.
    The GNSO Council (which I am on) and other organs of ICANN reacted
    quite strongly against VRSN and are just now moving into action.
    Does Michael prefer a powerful, dictatorial ICANN that can
    immediately, without any rules, order registries to conform to its edicts?
    A much better question to ask is this: Why does the DNS catch a cold
    when VeriSign sneezes? In other words, why does one registry control
    over 90% of the market in the United States and 85% of the gTLD
    registrations worldwide? Because of ICANN's - and the US government's -
    refusal to expand the name space to create competition.
     >National governments, who
     >were witnessing one company tamper with a public resource they
     >had promised to protect, also did nothing, rendered powerless by
     >their years of adherence to a self-regulatory policy that diminishes
     >traditional regulatory oversight.
    Hold on. Reality check. Does Michael think that national
    governments would automatically have drawn the contracts better
    in this case? In truth, the VeriSign-ICANN contract was drafted
    with the U.S. Dept of Commerce breathing down everyone's necks.
    Many other national governments are even more ignorant, concentrating
    entirely on preserving the acronyms of intergovernmental
    organizations, seizing control of their country code TLD, or creating
    even stronger protections for intellectual property interests.
    Improved public representation within ICANN would do more to
    solve this problem than turning it over to governments. Even now,
    within ICANN's flawed and industry-biased self-regulatory process,
    VeriSign is the dominant provider that everyone hates, and can be and
    usually is outnumbered and outvoted.
     >In fact, last week the United States government
     >extended ICANN's mandate over the domain name system for an additional
     >three years, guaranteeing many more years of governmental abdication of
     >leadership responsibility.
    And the alternative is? ....remember, this is not a national infrastructure,
    it's a global one. There are currently no global structures for DNS
    regulation. Take a look at what's being said about Internet
    governance in WSIS if you want to get the flavor of how an
    international intergovernmental organization would handle things.
    Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2003 06:49:55 -0400
    From: Gene Gaines <gene.gaines@private>
    Organization: Gaines Group
    To: Declan McCullagh <declan@private>
    Subject: Re: [Politech] Reply to column on VeriSign: Don't ask for 
    government intervention
    I say Henrik is wrong.  I read what he says as: justified by my long
    years of working in government agencies, I can make statements such as
    "... prof Geist, he is talking up his posterior."  as a justification
    for my and other governments taking a course of making no public
    statements and delaying or taking no action on an problem that affects
    essentially every user of the Internet worldwide.
    Underplaying the Versign SiteFinder issue, and as we say in American
    vernacular "sweeping the issue under the rug" may be comfortable for
    such a distinguished individual as Mr. Nilsson. But dealing with such
    issues is governance of the Internet, freedom, and the rights of
    individuals is seldom comfortable. Does seem important, though.
    Gene Gaines
    Sterling, Virginia USA
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