Internet Society Calls for 'Rough Consensus' Among Users


The Internet Society last week endorsed much of the Clinton administration's proposal for privatizing the global computer network but called on the government to be more deferential to the online community.

In a 12-page filing with the National Telecommunications and Infrastructure Administration in the U.S. Commerce Department, the Reston, Va.-based Internet Society emphasized the need to reach a "rough consensus" among all Internet users rather than defer to the wishes of a single entity such as the U.S. government.

Ira Magaziner laid out the Clinton administration's views on the future of Internet governance two months ago in a much-anticipated report called the Green Paper. That was nine months after an ad hoc coalition of groups, including the Internet Society and the Marina del Rey-based Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, offered their own guidelines for transferring control of the network from research agencies to the private sector.

"Whatever is finally proposed by the U.S. government must include a structure that is accepted internationally by a variety of interests, or the proposal will be doomed to failure," said Don Heath, president and chief executive of the nonprofit Internet Society. "At this point, their proposal does not appear to have broad international support."

The proposal that the Internet Society is backing, the "Memorandum of Understanding," has been endorsed by more than 200 companies and organizations worldwide.

The Internet Society said it supports the Green Paper's concept of a central authority for managing and administering Internet address space, domain names, the critical root server system and other technical protocols. But in deciding on the details about how a central authority will operate, the group said the government should make use of the extensive work already done rather than "reinvent the wheel." That could also significantly speed up the transition process, which the Green Paper said could take up to two years.

Among other things, the Internet Society would like to see the Clinton administration support an intellectual property dispute resolution system that was developed by the International Ad Hoc Committee and has won praise from many stakeholders, including would-be domain-name registrars.

The Commerce Department is accepting comments from the public about the Green Paper and is expected to issue a final ruling about the domain-name system later this year.

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