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Whose Internet is It Anyway?

This Pajamas Media BlogJams on the question is interesting. I kept getting my hackles raised by the UN hack, Peng Hwa Ang. He’s very diplomatic, and about as upfront and honest as the average used car salesman with a law degree.

The internet needs governance in the same way that the most critical things in our lives need governance–air, water, traffic, education, healthcare, etc.

He seems to be deliberately obscuring concepts when he conflates the voluntary standards applied to the blogjam with the typical top-down management applied by governments in the above areas. For my money he spins out half-truths, misdirection and outright lies with the majority of his contribution.

The issue that WSIS talked about are threefold:
(1) who should have ultimate say of the root zone system–the ccTLD and existence in cyberspace? Currently, it is no longer entirely in the hands of the USA
(2) whether there should be one forum to discuss all internet law and policy issues (YES, so WSIS decided) or multiple fora (the original position endorsed by the USA
(3) should there be a fund to help developing countries.

He answers these issues:

On (1), the USA has defused the tension by allowing all countries to have a say in their own respective ccTLD. The previous position was simply politically untenable: the USA actually had a say in the .IQ of Iraq even before the war.

It was never in the hands of the USA. ICANN has not had the US govt setting policy and overriding decisions. If this guy expects me to accept that the USA ‘had a say’, he’ll have to demonstrate exactly what the USA said.

(2) It makes sense to have one forum to coordinate on matters such as spam, consumer fraud, copyright, etc.

One forum only makes sense if you can find individuals to sit on that forum who are experts on email server and system architecture, international consumer protection law, finance and financial law, international copyright law, and all the other relevant issues. Otherwise you’re putting it into the hands of appointed political hacks who have no clue what they are doing. And who gave WSIS any authority to make that decision, anyway? This is pure political power-grab.

(3) It make sense to help developing countries.

Who should we trust with these issues? As I’ve noted in my write-up: for Most of the Rest of the World (MRW) it is the UN over the USA.

It makes sense to help developing countries. It makes no sense to fatten the private bank accounts of third world dictators and their cronies.

[I]n the course of the discussion of using the internet for development, it became very clear that the US Government is dominant in controlling the internet. Worse, how it exercised that control is not transparent nor democratic–at least pre-WSIS 2005. For evidence of this now, one need only look at the budget for development, the Digital Solidarity Fund.

Exactly what people want ICANN to do different regarding “using the internet for development” of 3rd world nations, he never says. He mentions transparency. Yeah, the UN is real transparent. Like the way Oil for Food and other programs are managed. Then back to Money for Bullies.

One telling point was his answer to Michael Barone’s “What assurance do we have that Third World countries will spend this money usefully?” Peng Hwa Ang’s answer:

There is no 100% watertight locked-down money-back-guarantee that some money will not be wasted.
Does it mean one does not help?

When 90% or more of the money of other programs IS wasted, then the absence of any assurance at all means that it’s better to do nothing. Let’s see, I don’t donate money, the people get no help. I do donate money, and the people get no help but the bullies and cronies get rich. It’s better to not donate.

Internet Governance is more about governance than the internet. WGIG said that the process of arriving at decisions re the internet should be–to use the language of WGIG–”democratic, multilateral, transparent and multistakeholder”. That is, they must incorporate the views of other countries, of private sector and civil society and they must be done in a manner that is accountable.

Sounds like a demand that censorship be given equal consideration to freedom of speech. Not with my consent. Peng Hwa Ang’s heard that before, too.

I’ve had some people email me that they would (a) not trust the UN to watch over $5 much less my/our internet and (b) if they want their internet go build “their own damn internet”.
I happened to meet Bob Kahn walking about the resort town of Sidi Bou Said near Tunis and he said that it is quite easy to set up a parallel internet universe aka “their own damn internet”.
My replies have been that (a) the UN is made up of governments and forced to make a choice most people trust their own governments–and therefore the UN–than the USA and (b) building “their own damn internet” is the worst possible outcome for everyone because everyone loses, with the USA being the biggest loser should that happen.

Prove how the USA loses if there are parallel name spaces (”their own damn internet”). We are the biggest market for internet goods, so anyone with something to sell will be on our name space. We will have the most product offerings, so anyone wanting to buy will be searching our name space. And if the scumbags dictators running Cuba, China, Iran, Suadi Arabia or Zimbabwe don’t like freedom of speech, let them deal with it and censor their own damn internet and leave the one open and international internet alone. Peng Hwa Ang’s final post includes:

1. The internet needs governance for its next stage of development. That is, it needs coordination, exchange of best practices, laws and policies (and other expressions that substitute for control if one does not like it) to bring it to the next level. There are mischiefs to be cured. Hence a need for a forum.
2. The process, especially at the international level, has to be open and inclusive. That is transparent. And inclusive of countries (multilateral) and inclusive of diverse groups (multistakeholder).
3. Developing countries also need help and some serious money into the Digital Solidarity Fund–managed in a transparent way–is essential

1. The IETF and ICANN do an excellent job already.
2. IETF and ICANN are open, inclusive and transparent. They include knowledgable and interested people from any nation, and deal with diverse needs already.
3. No UN money program is either transparent or managed seriously. The DSF doesn’t deserve funding. Especially by way of internet taxes.

If you want to see why the UN wants the internet, just read this guy while remembering that he is representing the dictators of some of the most abusive nations on earth.

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