1 December 2004

NRO Comments on the WGIG Panel at ICANN WSIS Workshop in Cape Town

Presented by Paul Wilson, Director General, APNIC

The Regional Internet Registries have been participating in WSIS for over two years, individually and more recently through the Number Resource Organization, which represents RIRs globally. There are a few WSIS areas where we might like to spend our time, but WGIG is now demanding all of our attention.

We are participating in WSIS as experts in the area of IP addressing, and as supporters of ICANN. We’ve given our support not as components of ICANN, but as independent members of this broader framework of Internet administration, which ICANN itself is intended to support.

In the second round of WSIS, the RIRs will continue to play an active role, especially in the WGIG. We will continue to support ICANN, and to work with ICANN to address the genuine questions that it faces.

We feel that within WSIS, the principle issues are those of the independence and genuine internationalisation of ICANN. The NRO has called on ICANN to continue its work in this area, not by building a monolithic multinational organization, but rather by increased co-operation and collaboration with its core stakeholders.

We’ve also called on ICANN to work with the US Government to publish a genuine, unambiguous plan for its independence after the current MoU, and to commit to this plan before the conclusion of the second phase of the WSIS. This is critical, to provide the WSIS community with certainty as to the future form and status of ICANN after WSIS, a question which is certainly still unclear to many.

Also as a critical issue of Internet governance, the NRO rejects any concept of an alternative Internet administrative model located within any governmental or intergovernmental structure. We acknowledge fully that there is a valid role for governments in the administration of the Internet, however this can and should be placed in the context of the current model.

Recently, the NRO posted a public response to Houlin Zhou’s memorandum on Internet Governance, addressing the proposal for a national allocation scheme for IPv6 addresses. Like others such as the Japanese Internet Governance Task Force, we have serious and very genuine concerns about the technical and operational implications of such a scheme.

The assertion of sovereign concerns in this case is a certainly powerful and legitimate argument, however there are mechanisms either in place now or certainly feasible, which may address the same concern with far lower risk. For the sake of the stability and security of the Internet, such solutions should certainly be explored.

Finally, in relation to the WGIG, I’d like to revisit some comments I made during the Geneva meeting last week. It seems that the definition of Internet Governance, which is the first of WGIG’s tasks, is being driven by negative aspects of the Internet, as a list of “problem areas” of the net. Or in other words, as a list of bugs rather than features.

The point here is that many aspects of the Internet are not being suggested as topics of Governance, simply because they currently work well enough not to be on the radar. These include such things as the routing system (which is pretty stable), competition between alternate root servers (which would certainly be an issue in the absence of the concerted efforts which have been made to avoid it), and the global interoperability of all parts of the net (which is assumed without question but by no means guaranteed).

I suggested to the Working Group last week that these and other aspects of the Internet must not be taken for granted, and the famous principle of “do no harm” should be borne strongly in mind. I suggested that rather than seeing Internet Governance as a list of bugs, WGIG should consider features of the Internet which are to be appreciated and preserved, and include this consideration in the scope of its work. The risk of overlooking them, and this is a real risk, is to “do harm” to the Internet, and potentially therefore, to leave a longer list of problems for some future Working Group to solve.

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