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On the "Consumers Constituency" Question

  • To: consumers-constituency-petition@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: On the "Consumers Constituency" Question
  • From: Eric Brunner-Williams <ebw@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 31 Jan 2010 13:55:30 -0500


First, I want to state that I think the Board, and the RySG errored formally, and many in the GNSO Council errored informally, in deciding not to accept the application for municipalities, and quite possibly similar entities, for Constituency Status, subsequently Stakeholder Group Status.

The issues are several.

First, each municipality is served by a small number of access network operators, unlike the generic and sponsored TLDs, with the notable exception of .cat. Cities resemble countries in this fundamental aspect, and therefore city registry operators are just as capable of originating policy about access network operator behavior, e.g., monitizing NXDOMAIN return, as highly policied ccTLD registry operators. This means that unlike all but one of the current RySG members, cities have a potential for a policy based relationship with the ASO and its dependent Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) and Local Internet Registries (LIRs), which cannot be shared with the current RySG, less the sole exception of the .cat operator.

As a rule, the GNSO has no interest in what happens in the ASO, and no technical dependency upon the correct function of the RIRs and LIRs, except when we examine edge cases such as double-fast-flux hosting networks. This is not the case for Cities, for which each will be intimately familiar with the operation art, for good, and for bad, of the access network operators present in the City access network market.

Second, the 2000 applicants, NeuStar/NeuLevel, Afilias/TuCows, Register.Com, and Global Name Registry, and also SITA, COOP, and Museum, all had access to the policy making process prior to Louis finishing the contract process. This was both equitable, reflecting the investment of each in the process and its outcome, and also prudent in terms of then-present and latent competition policy issues, and Verisign/NetworkSolutions was formally, and substantively, accommodating to the technical and policy interests of the 2000 round applicants. I repeat for emphasis -- this was before the 2000 round applicants had acceded to "contracted party" status.

As a rule, "observer status", whatever that may be, is not equal to the status of Constituency, now Stakeholder Group member, and the issues on which the RySG comments profoundly affect the interests of the current round of registry applicants.

To restate, there is a substantive difference between locality defined registries and registries which are indifferent to locality, and there is a procedural difference between "observer" and "member", which has the potential at least of substantive consequences.

Before turning to the surviving "reform" Constituency application there is the question of how many Constituencies there are in fact.

At the Paris meeting the correlation between the votes of the entities which are currently afforded "Constituency Status" was published. The results were illuminating. It is counter-factual to claim that the Business Constituency, or the ISP Constituency, actually exist as policy originating elements of the GNSO Council. The facts available to all of us demonstrate that the IPC captured the BC and ISPC several years ago, as those of us who have been involved in the perenial WHOIS efforts have observed. The correlated data is incontrovertible, and the continued gift of "Constituency Status" to two shell "constituencies" is an error that can be corrected.

Finally, as to the Consumers Constituency Charter, as a continuation of Ira Magaziner's rather limited vision as to what constitutes the "stakeholders" in the DNS, the proposal to add a vehicle for the views of non-commerical "consumers" is hard to fault. However, we should not overlook the opportunity to review the wisdom of Ira's choices.

The DNS may be thought of as a wart on the transport layer (TCP, UDP, etc), just as ICMP, another protocl which has a redirection header allowing mapping, is a wart on the network layer (IP), and ARP, yet another mapping protocol, is a wart on the link layer (ENET).

The fundamental elements of domain policy are:
o label custodial, a function exercised reasonably well by the IETF through the periodic IDN Working Groups[1], to which the W3C and the UTC liaise[2][3], o name space custodial, a function exercised reasonably well by each of the IANA and CNNIC, and their immediate delegees, aka "TLD registries", o recursion custodians, a function exercised reasonably well by implementation vendors and their installed user base, some of which are nominally members of the previously observed dysfunctional ISPC, and by o static address resource custodians, a function exercised reasonably well by hosting operators, generally absent from the GNSO Constituency model. These all assume the existence, and policy neutrality of transit operators, peering points, and routing policy generally.

In addition to these fundamental custodial activities arising from the functional definition of the DNS -- a mapping mechanism between names and addresses, there are social policy elements: o string custodial, a function arising from the social policy of applying trademark law[4] to domain names, a function exercised reasonably well by the Intellectual Property Constituency, now Stake Holder Group, o string custodial, a function arising from the social policy of applying free speech law [5] to domain names, a function exercised reasonably well by the Non-Commercial Users Constituency, now Stake Holder Group, and o access custodial, a function arising from the social policy of applying competition law [6] to domain names, a function exercised reasonably well by the Registrars Constituency, now Stake Holder Group.

Absent from Ira's model are the fundamental users of domain names, the applications which actualy attempt to locate resources using the DNS mapping function.

There is no place for stub resolvers and the very large class of applications which source resolution requests, in particular, using HTTP (browsers generally, but for reasons which arise from the abandonment of address policy, see ISPC remarks, above, has become a transport protocol in its own right) or SMTP. Absent also from this model are the fundamental means to authenticate and assure the instances of communication mapped through the DNS. It may be consequent to the government policy at the time which attempted to prevent "strong crypto" from being adopted in the civilian sector [7][8].

Browser and email user agent and transport agent technology and service vendors and end-to-end security technology and service vendors lack Constituency Status in Ira's model of a bottom-up public-private, multi-stakeholder organization. Consequently Ira's model has grown warts of its own -- an SSAC function and a recurring "maleware and anti-phishing" requirement, now an "Over Arching Issue". Abuse is pervasive, but no Constituency owns abuse as an issue.

There is a big gulf between connectivity and resolvability, which is determined by architecture and engineering, and access control, which is determined by administrative policy. ICANN lacks a Constituency, or a Stakeholder Group, or a Supporting Organization, which does general access control. The limited access control functions exercised by the IPC is simply too limited to address the more general areas of actual abuse.

The Constituency Charter proposes, at 11.2.3, to find funding "From major actors in the industry, including without limitation, registrars, registries, Internet service providers, and so forth" and at 11.2.4, "From the Non-Commercial Stakeholders Group (NCSG) and ICANN". Neither of these approaches could lead to an independent or sustainable Constituency. This weakness is not cured by 11.3, Conflicts of Interest.

The Constituency Charter anticipates a rather small number of members participating in the activities of the Constituency, as it devotes all of 10 to standards and discipline. If there are "users" the tools to manage their self-expression to their best ends is not a "Communications Officer" deleting links and comments. This simply can't scale, and seems irreconcilable with 9's statement on outreach "...to be as inclusive and representative of non-commercial Internet users as possible ..."

For the reasons I've mentioned I suggest that the Board thank the proposants for their efforts and decline the offer to create this particular Constituency.

I remind the Board that there is a "public interest" discussion, and that recovering the ISPC and the BC to their original purpose, as sources of agency distinct from the IPC is of paramount importance in the reform of the GNSO.

Please see also http://forum.icann.org/lists/affrev-draft-processes/msg00000.html and http://forum.icann.org/lists/affrev-draft-processes/msg00007.html for two points of view on the "public interest" which seem to me to be closely related to the question of a "consumers" source of agency within the GNSO.

Submitted as a personal capacity, though I am employed by CORE which has an interest in some issue outcomes, though probably not this one.

Eric Brunner-Williams

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