Intervention (Day 2) by Lynn St. Amour, President and CEO, Internet Society, during the Consultations on the Working Group on Internet Governance Thumbnail
‹ Back
Internet Governance 27 September 2012

Intervention (Day 2) by Lynn St. Amour, President and CEO, Internet Society, during the Consultations on the Working Group on Internet Governance

Intervention (Day 2) by Lynn St. Amour, President and CEO, Internet Society, during the Consultations on the Working Group on Internet Governance,

Geneva, Switzerland, September 21, 2004

Thank you Chairman Desai,

Yesterday, in your closing remarks you suggested that we focus on “how effective multi-stakeholder processes work”. You also suggested we should focus on what we might say to the UN Secretary General.

When I queried Mr. Kummer concerning his expectations, he said be “specific and provocative”. I’ll do my best.

Given the above, I would like to take the opportunity to review some of the processes that have stood the Internet, and the global Internet community, so well. They have facilitated its rapid, stable development and unprecedented deployment. ISOC believes there are many useful principles and processes that can be taken from the Internet community and used to support the WGIG process. To support this, I’ll briefly describe the key elements of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) process and then make some recommendations for WGIG.

As I mentioned yesterday, the Internet Society (ISOC) is an International, not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization founded 13 years ago by an international group of Internet Pioneers, notable amongst them – Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn – fathers of TCP/IP. ISOC’s Mission is: “To assure the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world.” To do this, amongst other things, we provide fundraising and organizational support for the IETF and associated groups such as the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) and Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) – these groups are responsible for the standards, protocols and overall architecture of the Internet. They, along with the private sector and research community are responsible for the Internet’s phenomenal development and growth.

We have heard many principles suggested: involve all stakeholders, facilitate participation by all, transparency, open, bottom-up and consensus driven processes and I think you’ll see that the IETF embodies all of these. And, of course ISOC supports these principles. Many of the Internet’s processes or groups (such as the IETF, Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), ICANN, etc.) are built on research and academic principles as opposed to commercial principles. They are built on sharing, openness, inclusiveness, and principles such as: “Give one idea and get two back”.

The IETF started 18 years ago (young by some standard bodies but quite old in Internet years). It did not start as a standards making body. It started as an opportunity for a few people to get together to talk about what they could do to advance and improve the Internet. It grew organically, out of specific and well defined needs, and was based on the principles mentioned above. The first physical IETF meeting had three people, the next seven, then 11, and today the IETF has over 1500 participants from across the world at each of its three physical annual meetings. And during the dotcom years there were approximately 2500 at each meeting.

The IETF has no members, and no member fees. It was initially supported by the US Government but has since transitioned to other funding sources. Today, it’s funded by the private sector through meeting fees and through the active participation of thousands of engineers and individuals from across the world. ISOC also provides funds to various efforts such as the publication of the IETF’s standards documents (which includes much more than final standards but also covers documents such as best current practices), as well as other IETF administrative support.

There are anywhere from 120 – 150 working groups at any one time. There are many hundreds of mail lists, and tens of thousands of people participating in those discussions. The working groups are where the IETF primarily gets its work done. They are driven by formally approved charters and have defined milestones. And yes, the working groups are closed when their work is completed. The physical meetings facilitate the IETF process but all formal work and all consensus calls are done on the email lists to maximize and facilitate participation, reduce barriers to participation, and ensure the process does not advantage those with time and funds to physically attend the meetings.

These working groups are organized into eight areas for organizational convenience and direction. They happen to be Applications, Routing, Security, General, Internet, Operations and Management, Sub-IP, and Transport, but this is not really important for this discussion. Each area has two area directors or AD’s, for a total of 16 AD’s. This structure is called the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) and they operate with a Chair (called the IETF Chair). The AD’s are appointed by the community, through a Nomination process and community review.

There are various types of IETF documents and anyone can submit an Internet draft. You do not need to participate in the IETF to submit a draft, nor do you need to have attended an IETF meeting. If you think you have something to contribute which is relevant to the IETF, you simply submit your draft and it will be evaluated.

The IETF runs on principles of “rough consensus and running code.” There are no members in the IETF, there is no formal voting, and participation is based on having something to contribute. Community consensus is judged based on last calls given on the mail lists rather than the physical meetings. Again, this is to minimize the barriers to participation. ISOC holds the copyrights on all RFC’s. There are no restrictions on them, as long as appropriate credit is given. They are published – for free – on the web and are valuable sources of information.

I should also mention that longer term architectural guidance and liaisons are structured through an organization called the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), which I will not talk about now as many of the principles are the same. And there is the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF), which deals with longer term research issues.

There is a tremendous amount of information and knowledge that can be gained by participating in the IETF. You can simply read the RFCs or participate in the working group lists.

So, how is this relevant to WSIS?

First, I should like to note that it seems there is a level of consensus emerging on several items, and my comments are based on the following observations:

1 – That Internet Governance should be defined in the broad sense as encompassing policy issues.

2 – A Multi-stakeholder process will be supported and in fact is critical, given how the Internet has developed, given what it is structurally (a network of private and public networks), its unique communication nature and what it can enable – reference UNESCO’s comments yesterday.

3 – WGIG will support open, inclusive and transparent processes.

4 – Many of the issues that need addressing (such as cyber-crime, privacy, IPR, spam, security, etc.) are largely local/national and will require cooperation with governments, industry, policy makers, civil society and technical communities to address.

5 – A matrix of the issues such as ICC’s representation or the Diplo Foundation’s “Rubik’s cube” will be chosen to organize WGIG’s efforts – it will identify the issues WGIG will address as well as the key players.

6 – WGIG needs to get a lot done and in a very short period of time, therefore models that make use of parallel processes rather than hierarchical ones are important. WGIG appears to be planning to follow a more traditional approach, with WGIG acting as a high-level steering committee supported by a secretariat or “drafting committee”. The WGIG would have relatively infrequent meetings (four are planned, I believe). ISOC believes an approach more fitting to the medium should be considered.

Therefore, in response to Chairman Desai’s request, ISOC would recommend that the UN Secretary General:

  • Carefully consider adopting (and adapt where necessary) the models, processes and principles that have made the Internet so successful to date. They are easily transferable to other models of cooperation.
  • Move to the broader definition of Internet Governance (so we hope that what seems like a consensus today holds)
  • That WGIG would act as a Steering Committee for these efforts pulling the right players and organizations in as appropriate. There’s a lot to be learned from organizations such as OECD, UNICT, COE, etc. and the manner in which they have approached similar tasks.
  • WGIG should work to dispel myths, rumors and misrepresentations and be a source of unbiased factual information.
  • WGIG should actively facilitate Cooperation, Coordination and Communication between the Internet Community, governments, private sector and civil society.

The tight timeframe that WGIG finds itself working to, suits this working group model well as it allows for maximum progress in any individual area while also facilitating cross-area dialogue. The variety of working groups required to address the broader definition of Internet Governance allows for broad participation across many fields of expertise and sectors of society.

ISOC strongly encourages WGIG to facilitate participation by many of the other groups addressing internet issues. Groups such as UNDP, UNESCO or the OECD’s activity on SPAM are all good examples.

Should WGIG proceed in this manner, they would be more fully supportive of WSIS’s Information Society goals.

Thank you.

‹ Back

Related resources

Internet Way of Networking 9 December 2020

Remarks at the 35th Anniversary of the NSFNET

8 December 2020 On the weekend, I returned to Canada from the U.S. (I’m speaking to you from quarantine),...

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

Shaping the 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

Join the conversation with Internet Society members around the world