Internet Society Contribution to ITU WTSA 2008 Thumbnail
Internet Governance 2 December 2011

Internet Society Contribution to ITU WTSA 2008

Johannesburg, October 20, 2008

Thank you, Mr. Fishman. Good afternoon, Ladies & Gentlemen.

I’m going to speak to you today about a different set of organizations and a set of standards activities focused on Internet technologies, to illustrate a model for inclusive standards development and deployment.

The Internet Society is a nonprofit organisation founded in 1992 to provide leadership in Internet related standards, education, and policy. It is dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of people throughout the world. The Internet Societyis the organizational home for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) – which is the institution that is responsible for the development and maintenance of key Internet technology standards. Notable among these are the Internet Protocol (IP – v4 and v6) and the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP).

The IETF itself is open to participation by any individual, and it runs on transparent and bottom up processes. The bulk of the work is carried out on e-mail mailing lists – archives are accessible to all. Draft and final specification documents (RFCs – requests for comments) are freely and publicly available, with no barriers to access or use. Physical plenary meetings are held 3 times a year, in different parts of the globe. They are also increasingly accessible – each meeting room is equipped with audio streaming and instant messaging chat rooms, allowing remote participation from other parts of the meeting venue or different locations around the globe. These face-to-face meetings are opportunities for engineers to share knowledge and expertise – whether long time participants, or newcomers. So, the IETF is in one part an organization for developing Internet technical specifications, and in another part it is an open community for developing and extending Internet technical expertise.

The IETF does focus its activities, aiming to represent expertise in Internet-specific technologies, stopping short of developing new activities when expertise is better represented elsewhere. The IETF is chiefly scoped to work on “protocols and practices for which secure and scalable implementations are expected to have wide deployment and interoperation on the Internet, or to form part of the infrastructure of the Internet.” Adhering to this scope also allows the IETF to work in partnership with other standards organizations, where appropriate, on items of mutual interest.

As an illustration of the latter point – a few years ago, there was a joint IETF/ITU-T workshop on “Next Generation Networks (NGN)”. The meeting illustrated a delineation of interests and expertise – the IETF expressed its interests in the building block technologies for Internetworking, and the ITU-T outlined requirements and systems built upon them to provide “an NGN”. Time passed, and one arm of ITU-T NGN development focused heavily on the use of one such block: MulitProtocol Label Switching (MPLS) – an IETF specification. The NGN use of MPLS had slightly different requirements than had been considered in the development MPLS, and a fork in the road was reached: either the ITU-T would extend an IETF protocol independently (and non-interoperably, it seemed to the IETF engineers) or better understanding of requirements needed to be brought to the attention of an IETF MPLS extension process. After some intense engineering discussions and hard work by all concerned, I believe the ITU-T and the IETF are quite pleased to have found a path forward that will allow the NGN work to go ahead built upon an IETF MPLS specification that is appropriate for NGN needs.

But, development of specifications is only one component of ensuring the continued technical evolution of the Internet. As the Internet functions as an ecosystem, the traditional Internet development cycle has focused on operational requirements feeding into development of specifications and best practices, feeding back to operational community uptake. Independent groups have established various meeting series that allow for both implicit and explicit development opportunities: regional network operator groups (NOGs). These are open, volunteer forums that bring together network engineers for discussion of contemporary Internet operational issues of interest.

  • Major Regional NOGs and forums include:


  • NANOG – North American Network Operators Group
  • SANOG – South Asian Network Operators Group
  • PacNOG – Pacific Islands Network Operators Group
  • AfNOG -African Network Operators Group
  • MENOG – Middle East Network Operators Group
  • APRICOT – Asia Pacific Regional Internet Conference on Operational Technologies

The NOGs tailor their agendas to meet specific regional needs, drawing on local and international expertise to enrich the knowledge of operators in their region, and grow the next generation of Internet operational leadership. In addition, the NOGs serve as forums for regional information exchange, best practice sharing, and operational problem solving. That implicit development is not an additional engagement effort, but rather a natural piece of the overall collaboration of effort that makes the Internet a global success.

I’ve described 2 key components of bringing Internet technologies to life – the IETF for development of specifications, and the operational meetings for discussion of current activities. While they all strive to be as open and accessible as possible, given the importance of these activities, additional efforts are made to bring new entrants to engage in them.

The NOG meetings afford opportunities for explicit development: tutorials, trainings, and workshops on contemporary Internet technical and operational issues, including the implementation of new standards. Most of the regional NOGs provide travel fellowships to support participation by less advantaged regions. The Internet Society is proud to have a long standing relationship with many of the NOGs to provide support for their development activities.

The Internet Society has also developed an “IETF Fellowship” program. This is designed not only to get engineers from developing countries to IETF meetings, but rather to facilitate participation in the community of Internet standards development. In less than two years, 32 technologists from 23 less developed countries have attended the IETF on the Internet Society Fellowship programme. (Venezuela, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Chile, India, Uruguay, Mauritius, Haiti, Bangladesh, Kenya, Brazil, Moldova, Mongolia, Columbia, Nepal, Tunisia, Mexico, Sri Lanka, UAE, Fiji, Samoa and Togo). The Internet Society will continue to work with and send at least 15 newcomers from developing countries to the IETF per year. At the end of their participation in the Fellowship programme, Fellows are not only more aware of IETF activities, they have engaged in the full process, first hand. They are enabled then to continue – even if chiefly through mailing list and remote participation, and they are encouraged to reach out and share this experience within their home region.

The key conclusions I would offer this forum from the IETF and the Internet Society’s experience:

  • Openness and accessibility to the process as well as the work product (specifications) are key, and must be integral to the standards development and application processes. It can’t be an afterthought.
  • Focus is necessary: by taking on only work that is within the defined scope of the IETF, there is less confusion, complexity and eventually cost.
  • As a corollary to focus – working to leverage partnerships with other, perhaps very different, organizations working on related technologies is imperative. While sometimes challenging, it is far less complex or costly in the long run.

Thank you.

Related resources

Internet Way of Networking 9 December 2020

Remarks at the 35th Anniversary of the NSFNET

Remarks from Internet Society President and CEO Andrew Sullivan at the NSFNET 35th Anniversary Celebratory Virtual Event 8 December...

Growing the Internet 17 June 2020

“The Internet is a deeply human technology”

Andrew Sullivan's remarks at the launch of the U.N. Secretary-General’s report Roadmap for Digital Cooperation

Internet's Future 25 February 2019

Up and Down the Stack Through a Nerd’s Eyes: Making The Internet Better the Internet Way

Andrew Sullivan's Keynote Speech at APRICOT 2019