reprinted from ICB Toll Free
New York, NY October 19, 2000 (ICB TOLL FREE NEWS) Buried among and receiving
little notice within the 47 new TLD applications under public review is .tel, "A
Top-Level Domain For The Emerging Internet-Telephony Industry" sponsored by Pulver.com
and iTAB (Internet Telephony Addressing Board.)
Its premise is ENUM* with a twist.
ENUM is E.164 telephone numbers, currently accountable to the ITU, to ride the
.ARPA top level domain space, which is accountable to ICANN/Commerce, resulting in
one global VoIP network, accountable to -- who?
While ENUM portends to trickle
down authority through the FCC's of the world, .tel can read the dot on the wall
and specifies, "iTAB seeks authority from ICANN ... over the core policies that define
the utilization of ".tel" as a shared resource for bridging the addressing gap between
legacy telephone numbers and emerging standards of the Internet-Telephony industry."
Furthermore, "Following the current practice with all Internet top-level domains,
the registration of E.164 numbers in the DLS will be managed by a single trusted
"Registry". It is assumed that this exclusive Registry function will fall under the
regulatory control of ICANN."
Two levels below ICANN in the .tel food chain is
the "E.164 Registrant: E.164 Subscriber or designated representative that registers
numbers and an associated ADS in the top-level DLS."
Bodacious doesn't come close
-- and yet architecturally speaking, .tel is on the mark.
The process starts with
an end-user picking up a phone and dialing a telephone number. The IP-PBX looks at
the number and tries to make a least cost routing decision. The least cost option
is to connect the call over the Internet. The higher-cost back up is to send the
call out over the existing telephone network (PSTN). In order to send a call out
over the Internet the IP-PBX needs to check a global directory to determine if the
telephone number can be translated into an Internet address for an IP-PBX or IP-phone
at the distant end.
The .tel TLD is the top-tier of a globally distributed directory
solution that enables end-users to register their phone numbers on the Internet and
associate those phone numbers with any number of IP-enabled communications devices
(phone, fax, e-mail, PDA, etc.) As the top-tier of the global system, the .tel TLD
simply provides a pointer to the appropriate location where authoritative Internet
address information is stored for a given number.
The IETF-ENUM working group
is engaged in defining an implementation standard for representing a legacy telephone
number as a domain name on the Internet. .tel TLD will utilize the ENUM naming approach.
But that's where they part ways.
"One of the core tenets of our registration
policies is to reinforce the property rights of "subscribers" in the E.164 name space,"
David Peek, Directory of Technology Strategy, tells ICB.
Whereas "the e164.arpa
(ENUM) structure delegates control of all registration functions to the 240+ government
entities that regulate the PSTN today," Peek says.
Gordon Cook (http://cookreport.com)
confirms this, reporting, "... since ENUM becomes a single point of control and also
a single point of failure, the way in which services are provisioned will be absolutely
critical... Under the ENUM business model there will be only a single ENUM provisioning
authority for each nation state."
Cook reports that ENUM chair Richard Shockey
says the IETF and ITU have agreed not to break the e164 mould which means that each
national telephone numbering authority will be asked to decide who will provision
ENUM services within its borders.
Shockey had advised ICB similarly of the IETF's
intent to come to accord with the ITU, and politically, ITU cooperation is necessary
to move ENUM forward.
But architecturally, ENUM is e164.arpa - that's "dot" arpa.
Dots are ICANN dominion, and like it or not, the IETF ranks below ICANN in the dot
food chain, though Cook says the ultimate source of authority is unclear.
DOC's Karen Rose? Is it ICANN's Louis Touton? The Internet Engineering Committee?
Perhaps we should be looking at the World Intellectual Property Organization -
Peek tells ICB, "By comparison [with ENUM], our ".tel" structure gives registration
control to subscribers on a global basis."
By indulging ICANN's WIPO-steroidic
demands for trademark protection, promising that "E.164 numbers are being viewed
as Intellectual property and/or trademarks of the subscriber who maintains "day-to-day"
control over the services for an E.164 number."
Try as we might, ICB hasn't been
able to find one trademark attorney among the myriad of trademark attorneys roaming
the net, that finds this statement credible, or even viable.
Per one particularly
colorful esq, " E.164 numbers - telephone numbers - are not trademarks. They are
excluded from protection as being functional," concluding, "I don't give a rat's
pitootie if they say the they say, "the registrants' body odors are being viewed
as IP and/or trademarks". That does not make it so - and can't."
But Peek and
his .tel may be onto something.
In its Sponsoring Organization's Proposal, .tel
"seeks authority from ICANN" to establish trademark status for .tel names because
its a core policy "that define[s] the utilization of ".tel" as a shared resource
for bridging the addressing gap between legacy telephone numbers and emerging standards
of the Internet-Telephony industry."
A quick look at WIPO/ICANN activity including
the excesses of the UDRP, reminds one that this isn't your father's food chain any
more. ICANN assign trademark status? Stranger things have happened.
writes of ENUM's proposed policy that the consumer must be given absolute and total
control over his ENUM services which may become the single tool set to controls his
business and personal communications. But ENUM doesn't tell us how this will be done.
And a closer look at ENUM standards reflects that "service provider" and "consumer"
as discussed in this context, can be used somewhat interchangeably.
and .tel are pandering, we believe, to corporate interests.
Neither quite gets
there -- but there's a storm brewing in ICB's crystal ball.
In past articles ICB
has raised the issue of fundamental paradigm shift from telephone governance to internet
governance with regard to ENUM. .tel conveniently helps to bring the point home.
Let's suppose for a moment that our trademark attorney friend is mistaken, and
the tm fairy WIPO leaves .tel trademark status under .tel's pillow.
level up from the subscriber to simple trademark characteristic assigned to the .tel
"property", its not much of a stretch to envision trademark owners of translating
alpha marks, challenging the subscriber of E.164 digit strings and matching .tel
The .tel application reads, "Advocates of the "e164.arpa" [ENUM]
PSTN-centric model support the vision that telephone numbers are "owned" by (and
should be exclusively controlled by) the regulatory entities that created the numbers
in the first place. This is certainly a valid statement from the PSTN perspective."
By comparison, ".tel" imbues the end user subscriber with trademark characterized
We agree with .tel that assignment of "property rights" to the
E.164 digit string and matching .tel assignment would be a welcome relief from the
traditional PSTN "public resource" ownership.
But layering on WIPO-infested "IP"
and "trademark" law could be a disaster.
Its unfortunate that ICANN requires the
tld applicants, .tel included, to play on WIPO’s turf, but that is part of the problem,
and its certainly not the solution to true concerns about outdated PSTN control.
Especially when you factor in the ICANN domain revocation policies that remove
ownership of all domain names, including those belonging to trademark owners, from
the domain holder, up the food chain to ICANN.
Peek, like Richard Shockey, is
an IETF ENUM working group participant, and tells ICB, "We support the vision that
ICANN and the IETF must have a close working relationship to provide proper governance
to the Internet community. Within this vision we support ICANN’s authority to create
an appropriate TLD, like ".tel", for the Internet Telephony industry. In addition
we support the IETF’s authority to define technical standards that utilize a TLD,
like ".tel", created by ICANN."
But Peek rejects Shockey's vision of nation-state
authority over ENUM/.tel.
And Shockey, with all due respect, gets apoplectic at
the mere mention of an ICANN-controlled ENUM.
Yet the actuality is the same whether
.arpa or .tel: no matter which, ICANN regulates domains, and folding phone numbers
into the dot environment, places phone governance subservient to internet governance.
And until internet governance rids itself of ICANN self-interest and WIPO domination,
it is not a user-friendly alternative to nation-state regulatory authority.
and his .tel partners are (mistakenly, or intentionally) only replacing PSTN with
ICANN, and adding in a layer of WIPO at that – whether above ICANN, or between ICANN
and end users, depends on your politics.
In the U.S. portable toll free arena,
while the FCC claims the numbers are a public resource, it nonetheless grants end
users "control" over their subscribed numbers and service.
Something starkly missing
from ICANN regulation of domain names. In fact, in lieu of granting domain owners
control, ICANN imposes blanket revocation policies, which do not exempt trademark
owners nor their domain names.
Shockey's ENUM may fall short of escaping ICANN's
grip, but for the moment he's got the better idea, even as the promise of .tel's
"property interest for end-user subscribers" makes us wish it were so.
ENUM's .arpa has been assigned for use by the Internet Architecture Board (IAB)
and the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG). There's no love lost between
these standards groups and ICANN, but ultimately we believe that ICANN sits at the
top of the food chain.
ENUM states it does not want ICANN's policy rule, but rather
As noted above, this may be contractually feasible,
but is architecturally questionable.
And the nation-state authority over ENUM
in the U.S., could be ICANN-daddy Commerce.
.tel, on the other hand, put its $50,000
on the tld application table. It not only accepts, but covets ICANN's rule, or at
least ICANN's authority to make its own rules. And its board of directors is none
A birdy whispers that .tel is dead in the water, the protocol supporting
organizations telling ICANN's Louis Touton to trash the application or forget about
It's ICANN's decision. It's Commerce's decision. It's WIPO's decision.
We shall see ...
Copyright © 2000 ICB, Inc. All rights reserved.