Free Press: Country Codes for the Internet?

Once upon a time VeriSign, Inc. (NASDAQ: VRSN), an American company that is responsible for a lot of Internet infrastructure, including two of the thirteen root nameservers, got the idea that it could make a little extra money if it used its position to tilt the table in its favor a little. Unilaterally, without any public discussion and without winning consensus in any of the Internet regulatory bodies, it started the VeriSign Site Finder system which redirected all not-found .net and .com domain name searches to a VeriSign page. In otherwords, if you misspelled a domain name and tried to go to let's say, DailyCos.com, instead of the HTTP 404 "page not found" error message mandated by IANA and W3C protocols, you would be taken to a VeriSign advertisement. They were trying to make unfair use of their position as a steward of Internet resources to monetize our spelling errors!

Immediately, strong protests came from the Internet Engineering Task Force [IETF] and other technical bodies, and this caused VeriSign to somewhat modify their Site Finder system, but they didn't quit it until the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers [ICANN] threated to revoke it's contract to administer the root name servers. This is typical of how transgressions are dealt with by the international community that has made the Internet what it is today. This seemingly seamless interconnection of networks that allows you to send a video from Houston to Hanoi didn't just happen. Rules are made and rules are enforced.

IETF is a very large international body composed largely of techies and organizations, including corporations, heavily involved in Internet technology. Anyone can join. It does a lot of the standard setting and and regulation setting on technical matters like net neutrality. IANA is a service coordinated with IETF, they maintain the Internet Protocol Registries. Net neutrality as we know it today is enshrined and protected by those protocols. ICANN is the non-profit that administers the names and numbers for the Internet. For the Internet to work, there can only be one DailyKos.com, one Google.com, one LinuxBeach.net. These are domain names. .com, .net and .org are what are called Top Level Domains [TLDs]. There used to be only one place to get a .com or .net domain name in the U.S. and that company was bought by VeriSign. Now there are many registries, but ICANN manages the whole structure, and domain names are assigned on a first come, first serve basis, without fear or favor. I even got YouFuckedWithTheWrongNigger.com but I don't like my chances of keeping it once the FCC decency police are put in charge.

Any country's courts may award you the rights to a domain name, but they can't enforce it. If you think you have the right, because of copyright or trademark or whatever, to a domain name that is registered to someone else, and you want an enforceable judgment, then you are going to have to follow ICANN's uniform dispute resolution policy. As it stands now, no government in the world can enforce a domain name decision because they don't run the domain name system that translates domain names like the DailyKos.com into IP addresses, and any attempt by a national government to seize control of the domain root server system would end the Internet as we know it.

There are no country codes on the Internet. There are no long distance fees. There are no borders except where national governments try to impose their will. For the past 25 years the Internet has been regulated by a group in international non-government organizations. I have already mentioned ICANN and IETF, now I would also like to add to the list the World Wide Web Consortium [W3C] "an international community that develops standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web," InterNIC oversees the domain name registration system. The Internet Society is the home of groups responsible for Internet infrastructure standards and provides leadership in chartering the future of the Internet. The Internet Architecture Board is responsible for oversight and some Internet standards.There is also People for Internet Responsibility [PFIR] a group concerned about many present and future aspects of the Internet, including regulation. So don't you dare claim, as many associated with the DailyKos, Huntington Post, and Democracy Now have, that the Internet is unregulated.

The Internet has been regulated, and network neutrality and Internet freedom in general has been effectively defended by these international non-government bodies that have been creating the future of the Internet and IMHO, a great model of international cooperation and administration. But there is a lot of concern about what is seen as U.S. and western domination of the world wide Internet. For example, only now are Internet standards being put into place that allow 'foreign' alphabets to be used in domain names and in part because an .xxx TLD that was approved by ICANN five years ago still hasn't been implemented, there is talk in Internet circles of rebuilding the domain name system independent of U.S. political influence

Now comes a move by the U.S. to take control of the Internet by having the U.S. FCC reclassify the Internet and put it under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934! This move is being widely supported in the U.S. by many who are clueless about the inter-workings of the Internet, in the name of defending Net Neutrality.

Free Press is an FCC lobbying organization that is one of the main forces behind the "Google is Evil" campaign and a major proponent of protecting Net Neutrality by giving more power to the FCC. Up until now they have ignored the international Internet regulatory bodies named above. They have pretended that they don't exist and since nobody else was speaking of them, that has worked well for them.

Yesterday, finally, they broached the subject of how they view the relationship between the powers they would like to see the FCC have and these international bodies. They complain that the Google Verizon proposal would even go so far as to bar the Federal Communications Commission from having any authority to make and enforce Net Neutrality rules, instead requiring it to defer to a third-party industry group.
I want to thank Free Press for this clear presentation of the issue. Finally we get to the nob of the matter. We are all for for Internet freedom and equality. The question is how is it to be enforced? Who should exercise power over the Internet?

IMHO the only power the FCC, or any national government, should have with regards to the Internet is to see that none of the entities under its control violate the Internet standards and policies established by the responsible international third party industry groups that are going this today and have done so far in the life of the Internet. This is also pretty much the position taken in the Google Verizon proposal:

The FCC would enforce the consumer protection and nondiscrimination requirements through case-by-case adjudication, but would have no rule making authority with respect to those provisions. Parties would be encouraged to use non-governmental dispute resolution processes established by independent, widely-recognized Internet community governance initiatives, and the FCC would be directed to give appropriate deference to decisions or advisory opinions of such groups.
Free Press opposes this. Free Press clearly wants to give the FCC powers that are independent of and that supersede the existing Internet regulatory bodies. What Free Press is lobbying for here is nothing less that a U.S. takeover of the World Wide Web, but that's not what will happen. If the U.S. isn't going to 'defer to a third-party industry group', then why should any other country? They can all attempt to enforce their view of net neutrality and Internet policy. The Free Press policy will lead to the Balkanization of the Internet and that truly will be the end of the Internet as we know it.

Here is a recap of my other DKos dairies on this subject:
The Mountain comes to Mohammad
Keith Olbermann's Deception
Court rules -> Google Must Be Evil & Maximize Profits
EFF on the Google\Verizon Net Neutrality Proposal
Google-Verizon: What is the Free Press Agenda?
End of the Internet As We Know It!
Free Press would make this Illegal!
Google Verizon Announce Terms of Deal