Analyzing public submissions to CWG-Internet online consultation

With only two days left for submissions to the ITU’s Council Working Group on international Internet-related public policy issues (CWG-Internet) online consultation, there have been 10 submissions received so far. The vast majority of words come from the three contributions by Richard Hill, ex-ITU staff member. In total, his almost 13,000 words make up a fraction over 59% of the 17,500 words received to date.

Below is a summary of contributions, including small biographies on contributors for context:

Issue 1: effectively countering and combatting spam

There have been two submissions:

1. Submission by Richard Hill, Hill & Associates, Switzerland

Richard Hill was Counsellor to the ITU for ten years and has now started the Association for Proper Internet Governance (with the rather unfortunate acronym, APIG). On 8 July this year, Hill chaired an ITU workshop on spam in South Africa. It is only on this first issue of spam that Richard Hill submits under the name “Hill and Associates”. For Hill’s remaining two—and significantly longer—submissions, he uses his “APIG” designation. It’s unclear why this is the case.

Hill’s first submission focuses on ITU documentation related to combatting spam:

He also refers to the Internet Society’s web page documenting ways to fight spam.

Discussion of human rights issues also creeps into the submission, reflecting how deeply embedded human rights rhetoric has become in all things Internet-related these days. Hill refutes that the ITR Article dealing with spam—the Article previously known as 5B, but renamed Article 7 in the post-WCIT editing process (let’s just call it “the Article formerly known as Prince“, shall we?)—could lead to restrictions on freedom of speech. He also refutes the other criticism aimed at the Article—that it strays into content management—by explaining that it specifically refers only to technical anti-spam measures.

2. Submission by Sami Salih, NTC, Sudan

Sami Salih has participated as a representative of the Sudan government in the ITU’s IPv6 Group and WCIT, and has also participated in AfriNIC meetings.

Salih’s submission is only one paragraph long. He refers to Article 5B (now known as “Article 7”) of the ITRs and suggests all stakeholders be asked to “adopt policies to minimize the impact of spam on the ICT services”.

Issue 2: (a) unused legacy IPv4 addresses, and (b) inter-region transfers of IPv4 addresses

The fact that this issue has been included in the consultation after having already been discussed in the ITU’s IPv6 Group is significant. So is the fact that there have been four submissions to the online consultation process in response to this issue. Clearly, there are still strong views about the best way to manage the rapidly depleting puddles of IPv4 as the Internet moves slowly into the IPv6 world.

1. Submission by Tim McGinnis, McTim Consulting, United States of America

Tim McGinnis is a member of the Internet technical community and participates in development of IP addressing policies in the Regional Internet Registry system.

McGinnis refers the CWG-Internet members to IANA policy document ICP-2, Criteria for Establishment of New Regional Internet Registries, and suggests that the IP address issues up for online consultation are out of scope for the ITU.

2. Submission by Jan Flodin, Internet Society Sweden Chapter, Sweden

Jan Flodin is policy advisor to .SE and Chair of the ISOC-SE board.

Flodin notes the online consultation is the CWG-Internet’s first towards openness but regrets that the limited context in which the consultation issues are presented makes it difficult to know if ISOC-SE’s response addresses the issues CWG-Internet members had in mind. Flodin notes that there has been “extensive work done on policy development and procedures by existing multi-stakeholder forums, including the Regional Internet Registries” and that to “interfere with this working allocation system would do more harm than good”. Instead, he suggests focusing on the transition to IPv6.

3. Submission by Sami Salih, NTC, Sudan

Salih’s intent appears to have been obscured a little by writing in English, a language that is not his first language. So I apologize in advance if I misunderstand his original intent. Salih expresses his belief that the Internet community needs to support developing nations to develop their ICT sectors. In relation to IP addressing, this can be achieved by ensuring the 40% of unused IPv4 addresses are returned to the free pool. Salih believes that it is not acceptable to hold back Internet resources from developing nations.

4. Submission by Richard Hill, APIG, Switzerland

Hill frames the slow transition to IPv6 as a “standardization failure” rather than a “market failure”. He doesn’t recommend any particular solution, but does leave Member States with three things to consider:

  • “[I]f it is felt that the relatively slow rate of transition to IPv6 simply reflects market and economic realities, then there is no need for government intervention apart from the current awareness and capacity building efforts”
  • “[I]f it is felt that the relatively slow transition to IPv6 perpetuates the historical geographical imbalances in IP address allocation, then some consideration could be given to taking steps to expropriate under-utilized IPv4 blocks and moving towards geographical allocation of recovered space, even perhaps to national allocation of the recovered space”
  • “[I]t has been suggested that the increasing concentration of IP address allocations may indicate some abuse of dominant market positions, so competition authorities may wish to consider this matter”

In his main text and reference notes, refers to a number of ITU documents and activities, including:

The submission also refers to blog posts by the “well respected technologist”, Geoff Huston, and a smattering of articles in academic journals.

Issue 3: developmental aspects of the Internet

There have been three submissions on this issue:

1. Submission by Poncelet Ileleji, The Gambia YMCA Computer Training Centre and Digital Studio, The Gambia

Poncelet Ileleji participates in the Not-for-Profit Operational Concerns (NPOC) constituency (part of the ICANN GNSO), is a member of the Diplo Internet Governance Community, and has participated in the West Africa IGF and global IGF. He participated as the sole representative of Gambia at WCIT in 2012.

Ileleji recommends in his submission that ITU can help Member States understand the importance of having national Internet Governance Forums. He also notes that such forums are not decision-making forums.

2. Submission by David Sarokin, XooxleAnswers Research, United States of America

I could find very little on David Sarokin’s background. His LinkedIn page says he is an Online Business Writer and Research Specialist. He doesn’t appear to have participated in ITU activities in the past. Nor does he seem to have been a participant in any of the various forums and organizations that address Internet governance issues.

Sarokin’s submission is a good example of what happens when the description of an issue in an online consultation is unclear. Sarokin’s submission—a proposal to create a new protocol that supports permanent, unchanging links to documents, video and images on the Internet—interprets Issue 3 as being related to Internet technical development rather than about efforts to bring Internet infrastructure, content and the benefits of the Internet to developing parts of the world. I don’t think this submission is what the Member States were expecting, and hopefully will encourage them to be more specific in their calls for online contributions in future.

3. Submission by Richard Hill, APIG, Switzerland

Ten thousand words. A list of eighty references. As an aside, it’s slightly odd that, in the main text, Hill doesn’t refer to authors of the documents he refers to. Instead, he uses general descriptions: “a well respected academic” (Milton Mueller) and “a well-known Internet technologist” (Geoff Huston) being the most frequent.

This is a tome. Due to the nature of its contents, it’s also the submission most likely to encourage members of the Internet governance community to decide to submit something of their own to the CWG-Internet online consultation.

The title of the piece, “Developmental Aspects of the Internet: The Last Gasp of Colonialism, or Imperialism by Other Means?”, is a good indication of its content. Because I’m rushing to get this post out in time to allow people to hopefully write last minute submissions to the CWG-Internet, my summary of Hill’s 10,000 word submission is necessarily brief and may not accurately reflect the weight Hill himself gives to the issues in his document.

The submission refers to criticism about ICANN (including the assertion that ICANN was never created to be a multistakeholder entity), distrust about the USA’s role in Internet governance in the wake of PRISM revelations and discussions on the financial implications of international Internet traffic arrangements for developing countries. Hill suggests that the current Internet governance model can be seen as a new form of “techno-imperialism”, with the US government and private companies using the multistakeholder model to extend the USA’s economic and political authority well beyond its territorial boundaries.

Hill proposes a few ways to move the current Internet governance model forward, which I have included in shortened form below:

  1. “Accept the discussion, rather than refuse it (WCIT and WTPF both provide good examples of refusal to discuss the situation, as do numerous other meetings)”
  2. “Accept discussion of the fundamental issues, rather than peripheral issues on which there isn’t much disagreement (for example, at WTPF there was much discussion of the role of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) but no discussion of the Internet financial flow issues”
  3. “Accept comparison with other infrastructures, in particular the mobile telephone infrastructure”
  4. “Seek an agreement that gives equal rights to all countries, that is, address the current asymmetric role of the US government”
  5. Go “back to the future”: “[develop] a multi-stakeholder multi-lateral memorandum of understanding similar to the one originally proposed in 1997

Hill ends his submission with “As suggested elsewhere, the ITU would appear to be a proper forum in which to conduct some of those discussions”.

4. Submission by Mawaki Chango, Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Cote d’Ivoire

Mawaki Chango has participated in the ICANN GNSO, the IGF and has worked as a consultant for UNESCO. The APC is an active civil society participant in Internet governance discussions.

Chango notes that there is still much to be done to bring down the cost of Internet access for African users. He is pleased to note, however, that the ITU, in one of its WTPF Opinions, recognized the work being done to create and support Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) and local content. Chango suggests that the ITU work in synergy with the African Union to support the region’s efforts to develop Africa’s Internet infrastructure. Chango also recommends that Member States move towards new and more dynamic regulatory approaches in their management and allocation of radio spectrum.

Chango also suggests that ITU members consider gender balance and universal access issues when deploying Internet infrastructure.

In relation to future public policy related discussion, Chango states that APC welcomes initiatives by the ITU, such as the CWG-Internet online consultation and the WPTF Informal Experts Group, and, for the future APC seeks a “clear and stable Internet-related public policy-making framework that ensures:

  • Public policy development can be initiated by state actors as well as non-state actors;
  • All stakeholders, regardless of the originator of the policy proposal, co-develop public policy, on equal footing, with all proposals and views to be weighed on their merit;
  • Balanced representation between and within stakeholder groups, across the five UN regions, and with best effort towards equal distribution between developing and developed countries.
  • Input and engagement of stakeholders via a well-facilitated remote participation platform”

General impressions of submissions made to date

1. A bit too much ITU navel gazing

Five of the submissions were made by two people with a substantial level of participation in the ITU environment. These five submissions also refer to a lot of ITU documents, many of which are unavailable to non-ITU members.

2. Lack of information about the breadth of work already underway to address the three issues

I suspect that when supporters of the CWG-Internet open consultation were drafting the text of this first open consultation, they were hoping for input about non-ITU activities, discussions, information and processes on the issues up for consultation. Right now, what the members of the CWG-Internet have from the online consultation is really no different to the sorts of Member State contributions they would be reading had there never been an open consultation.

I’ll be honest here. When I talk about “the breadth of work already underway to address the three issues”, I’m not saying that processes outside ITU have solved, or will solve, all the public policy issues associated with IPv4 transfers, spam, or developmental challenges. But unless CWG-Internet members have access to information about positive activities to address these issues, we certainly can’t blame various Member States for continuing to fear that gaps in Internet policy will get wider and more problematic and that intergovernmental organizations alone are interested in solving the issues.

Right now, the contributions to the CWG-Internet online consultation show little of the wonderful diversity of actions that have been taken, are underway, or are under development to address the three issues of concern to the CWG.

What next?

The deadline for submissions is 1 August 2013. I suspect more submissions will slip in just before the deadline (probably just before 5 pm Geneva time). I’ve heard that at least a couple of other submissions are in the works as I write this.

Now that there are ten submissions available for all to read, I’d like to think that other organizations might now have a better idea of what sorts of submissions they can make.

I’d also like to think that the contents of the current ten submissions could prompt other organizations to write brief submissions to the CWG-Internet, either to support the sentiments in one or more of the submissions, or to express contrasting views on the issues. (I’ve previously blogged on the CWG-Internet consultation and included a proposed template here.)

Finally, I really hope that remaining contributions focus less on references to ITU documents and more on external sources of information that the CWG-Internet members probably don’t know exist and would be interested to learn more about.