Documentary coverage of IGF-USA by the Imagining the Internet Center

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IGF-USA 2012: Critical Internet Resources (CIRs) – Evolution of the Internet’s Technical Foundations

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Brief session description:

Thursday, July 26, 2012 – Since the initiation of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), Critical Internet Resources (CIR) and the evolution of the Internet’s technical foundations have been a central focus of ongoing Internet governance debates. Varied views can engender misunderstandings that influence the opinions of global stakeholders, and different views exist about how to advance CIRs. International governmental approaches are proposed by some, while others strongly support the present bottom-up, consensus-driven models. Three foundational technological changes – IPv6, secure Domain Name System (DNSsec) and secure routing – framed the discussion in this workshop. Deployment of these new technical and organizational approaches raises significant challenges to stakeholders, operations and governance arrangements.

Details of the session:

The moderator for the session was Walda Roseman, chief operating officer of the Internet Society. Panelists included:

  • Steve Crocker, chair of the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
  • John Curran, president and CEO of the American Registry of Internet Numbers
  • Richard Jimmerson, director for deployment and operationalization, Internet Society
  • Vernita Harris, deputy associate administrator in the Office of International Affairs of NTIA, US Department of Commerce

Thursday’s IGF-USA conference at Georgetown Law Center featured an assembled panel of government and corporate experts who addressed the controversial issues concerning the control of critical Internet resources.

Walda Roseman, chief operating officer of the Internet Society (ISOC), chaired the discussion on the implementation and security of CIRs.

CIRs include IP addresses, domain names, routing tables and telecommunications, or what Steve Crocker, CEO and co-founder of Shinkuro Inc., Internet Hall of Fame member and chair of the board of ICANN, called the base of Internet architecture upon which everything else is built.

Moving from Internet Protocol Version 4 to IPv6

One of the most pressing concerns regarding CIRs is the revision of Internet Protocol (commonly referred to as IP) from version 4 to version 6, now the most dominant protocol for Internet traffic.

IPv4 used 32-bit addresses, allowing for approximately 4.2 billion unique IP addresses, but the growth of the Internet has exceeded those limits. IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses, allowing for about 3.4×1038  unique addresses. This number is equal to approximately 4.8×1028 addresses for each of the seven billion people alive in 2012.

John Curran speaks about critical internet resources during IGF-USA conference in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

Because headers on IPv4 packets and IPv6 packets are quite different, the two protocols are not interoperable and thus they are both being run in what is called a “double stack.”

However, IPv6 is, in general, seen to be a conservative extension of IPv4. Most transport and application-layer protocols need little or no change to operate over IPv6. The exceptions to this are the application protocols that embed internet-layer addresses, such as FTP and NTPv3. In these, the new address format may cause conflicts with existing protocol syntax.

Internet service providers, the Internet Society and many large Internet-based enterprises worked to support a World IPv6 Launch on June 6 this year to help accelerate the adoption of IPv6.

John Curran, president and CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers, said upgrading to IPv6 is a necessary step for “any enterprise that wants to still be in business in five years,” because it enables them to continue to reach new customers and grow.

When asked about the costs or burdens of upgrading to IPv6 for small businesses, Curran explained that in most cases the burden would fall on the hosting company through which they run their website.

Chris Griffiths, director of high-speed Internet and new business engineering for Comcast, confirmed this, stating his company would have to upgrade to continue to attract new clients.

Security issues always loom large in Internet evolution

The development of the Internet has led to a need for Domain Name System Security, or DNSSEC. Curran explained that DNSSEC maintains the integrity of the Internet by ensuring the information users obtain is from the source they believe they are corresponding with, essentially preventing redirection to fraudulent websites.

Redirection could come from hackers, hijackers and phishers, but also the US government, should initiatives such as SOPA or PIPA pass.

“My primary interest is keeping the open Internet alive,” said Richard Jimmerson, director of deployment and operationalization for ISOC. “Somebody in this room will want to invent the next Facebook or Yahoo! Today, that is possible, but if we do not pay attention to certain things, that may not be possible anymore.”

Griffiths said Comcast and other Internet technology companies work together through governance processes now in place to address, for example, the types of security vulnerabilities that can drive action to work to avoid future risk, and in making adjustments in infrastructure and dealing with other emerging challenges.

Steve Crocker speaks about critical internet resources during IGF-USA conference in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

Conflicts arise over the management of CIRs

The US government currently maintains the most control globally over CIRs. This is not well received by some critics around the world, as they fear that the United States may abuse its power. Some have also proposed that they would like to see a roadmap of the Internet for the next 20 years.

Curran addressed these concerns by stating that the US government has a positive track record regarding the respectful and neutral administration of its responsibility for CIRs, mostly leaving all of the operational details to multistakeholder global governance bodies such as the Internet Engineering Task Force and ICANN, and added that roadmap would not likely be effective as there are too many unknowns moving forward.

Vernita Harris, deputy associate administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, explained that the newest Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) contract indicates it expects that ICANN and aspects of control over the Internet architecture “will be multi-stakeholder driven, addressing the concerns of all users both domestic and international.”

— Brennan McGovern

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IGF-USA 2012 Opening Plenary Roundtable: Emerging Internet Issues – Governments or Governance?

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Brief session description:

Thursday, July 26, 2012 – This major session of the opening plenary of IGF-USA discussed the current state of play with various proposals ranging from the WCIT, the UN Commission on Science and Technology and Enhanced Cooperation, areas where more government may be called for from their perspective or strong improvements in “governance.” Panelists offered a range of perspectives about government and governance.

Details of the session:

The session was moderated by Marilyn Cade, the chief catalyst of IGF-USA. Panelists included:

  • Rebecca MacKinnon, the Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation
  • Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center
  • Jacquelynn L. Ruff, vice president of International Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs for Verizon Communications
  • Paul Brigner, the regional bureau director of the North American Bureau at the Internet Society
  • John Curran, president and CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers
  • Kristin Peterson, co-founder and CEO of Inveneo
  • Fiona Alexander, associate administrator of the Office of International Affairs at NTIA

If there’s a keyword lying at the heart of the Internet Governance Forum it is “multistakeholder.” Key is the belief that individuals from various backgrounds—from private industry to civil society to government to academia—benefit from gathering and discussing their visions for the future, and the viability thereof. Whether they’re able to reach any consensus after gathering and discussing the issues is another matter entirely.

The 2012 IGF-USA conference, held at Georgetown Law Center in Washington, D.C., Thursday, opened with a panel showing just how diverse these individuals can be, and how varied their focus is in regard to the pressing issues facing the parties looking to influence the continued growth of the Internet.

Rebecca MacKinnon from the New American Foundation speaks at the Opening Plenary Roundtable at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

Rebecca MacKinnonof the New America Foundation opened the seven-member discussion by highlighting the importance of the “digital commons,” the non-commercial backbone providing structure to a number of vital digital institutions. Because of the shared nature of this backbone, which stretches across traditional nation-state boundaries, MacKinnon said she believes the world is on the verge of a reformation of the current governing concepts, as individual states try to gain control over institutions that involve those beyond their jurisdiction.

In the modern era, MacKinnon asserted, individuals are “not just citizens of nation-states and communities, we’re citizens of the Internet.”

“We have to be informed about how power is exercised,” she continued, highlighting a need for everyone involved to play their part in shaping the direction of the Internet’s evolution.

This, in turn, circles back to not just the perceived necessity for multi-stakeholder solutions, but the lingering questions as to how those solutions are reached.

“How do we ensure that the policy-making mechanisms actually allow input from all affected stakeholders?” MacKinnon asked.

She theorized that societies are on the precipice of a “Magna Carta” moment, in which the traditional concepts that dictate the ways in which governments work will be disrupted by this multistakeholder model.

This drew some rebuttals to some degree from other members of the panel.

Fiona Alexander, associate administrator at the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, agreed with MacKinnon that some nations may be standing at that edge, but said the Magna Carta moment isn’t to be expected of every country, or even every stakeholder taking part in current dialogue.

“They [unnamed stakeholders] have in many cases failed to live up to what’s expected of them,” she said, which leaves those advocating for multistakeholder solutions in a situation where they’re defending a model for governance under siege, fostering doubts for its efficacy.

And a large number of those stakeholders are far behind those in developed, Western countries in regard to Internet penetration.

Fiona Alexander speaks at the Opening Plenary Roundtable at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

Kristin Peterson, co-founder and CEO of Inveneo, a non-profit organization dedicated to the proliferation of communications technology in the developing world, shared just how much work needs to be done in bridging the gap between dominant Internet stakeholders and those just attaining reasonable access to the Web.

“Internet access is important not just on individual level, but on a functional level, an organizational level,” she said.

Part of this is due to the remoteness of developing, rural areas, which drives up the cost of infrastructure to a counterproductive degree.

A single 1MB connection, Peterson highlighted, which would be suitable for a school or a medical clinic, costs upwards of $800 a month in Haiti. Another unnamed country that Inveneo has worked with has less than 100MB in total. And that 1MB of Internet access? It costs roughly $2,000 per month.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, far removed from countries just beginning to break down the barriers preventing them from gaining full access to the Internet, are stakeholders who, in the minds of some, will have an inordinate amount of influence over multi-stakeholder debates.

Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, highlighted the influence of corporate entities as one such problem.

Comparing growing corporate influence over the Internet to “the clouds gathering at the beginning of a Batman movie,” Rotenberg warned those in attendance, “You have to pay attention when the skies darken, things are about to happen.”

One such entity, which Rotenberg accused of having an ever-growing outsized influence over the Internet, is Google, whose growing presence on the Web is the “Number-one threat to Internet freedom.”

Regardless of whether that’s the case, such problems do require a means to draw in those affected by the evolving dialogue on Internet governance.

John Curran speaks at the Opening Plenary Roundtable at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

“How do we get people engaged, how do we raise a flag and pull in society, business, governments?” asked John Curran, president and CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers.

Curran offered perspective into the scope of the problems facing Internet stakeholders, the shape of which appears on multiple layers, with technological standards and protocols existing at the bottom layer. They require little political involvement, moving up to domain names and IP addresses, which aren’t necessarily the most hot-button social issues under debate within the halls of Congress. Nonetheless, they bring about privacy and tracking concerns, peaking with the broad, end-user experiences that draw in such general topics as intellectual property use, censorship and national security.

And, of course, given the nature of IGF, the multistakeholder model is seen as the best means to approach such problems.

Paul Brigner, the regional director of the North American Bureau at the Internet Society and Jacquelynn Ruff, vice president of international public policy and regulatory affairs for Verizon, offered insight into how new players are accepting and integrating into the multistakeholder approach.

Telecommunications firms, well aware of the dwindling demand for their traditional services in the wake of the Internet revolution, are “moving away from focusing on traditional telecommunications to Internet protocol and Internet issues,” Brigner said.

Jacquelynn Ruff speaks at the Opening Plenary Roundtable at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

An issue such as the possible transition to a sending party pays structure, for example, is an issue that demands the inclusion and participation of a multitude of affected parties. Under such a regime, “You’re not free, necessarily, to innovate at low cost like you experience today,” Brigner said. “The end-to-end nature of the Internet that allows these sort of things to evolve.”

To alleviate some of the difficulty inherent in such discussions, Ruff cited the importance of enhanced cooperation, the notion of mapping past developments, current deficiencies and projecting future ambitions in a way that involves all interested parties. Emphasizing examples within UNESCO, ICANN and the Council of Europe, Ruff celebrated enhanced cooperation’s increasing rate of adoption.

The world is at “a fork in the road on the global discussion on where the future lies,” she said. And applying enhanced cooperation to the traditional multi-stakeholder methodology could be an effective means to remedy the arguments over which path to take.

That said, a plethora of stakeholders have their own interpretation and they will be seizing the opportunities granted by this IGF event and future conferences to throw their hat into the ring drawn by the opening plenary session’s panelists.

— Morgan Little