7.5 The Green Paper and Its Aftermath

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The NTIA was supposed to issue a policy statement based on the public comments in early November. That date was repeatedly postponed because of the intense lobbying and the extensive stakeholder consultations of Magaziner, Kahin, and Burr. The MoU forces were adding signatories, trying to build momentum, and urging the Interagency Working Group to accede to the addition of its new gTLDs to the root. Its opponents, including Network Solutions and the alternative registries, wanted the NTIA proceeding to start from a clean slate. Finally, on January 28, 1998, the NTIA published online a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The document, known as the Green Paper because of its status as a discussion draft seeking an additional round of comments, was a tremendous blow to the Internet Society and its backers.

In the Green Paper, the U.S. government asserted its authority over the name and address root but also indicated its intention to relinquish that authority in a way that involved Internet stakeholders internationally. Much to the chagrin of the MoUvement, the document did not recognize IANA's relations with the Internet Society and did not even mention the IAHC process that had produced the gTLD-MoU and CORE.

Instead, the Green Paper was a relatively straightforward privatization proposal, putting forward some basic principles to guide the federal government in transferring the IANA functions to a private not-for-profit corporation. [41 ]The proposal repeatedly recognized that international 'stakeholders want a larger voice in Internet coordination,' and pledged that the new governance arrangements would 'ensure international input in decision making' but nevertheless asserted that the U.S. government had to direct the transition because of its responsibility for the contractors in control of the root and the need for stability. As a governance structure, the Green Paper proposed a 14-member board of directors drawn in a balanced fashion from various stakeholder groups. [42 ]

To open up the domain name market to competition, the Green Paper offered several key policy decisions. It proposed to authorize five new registries, each assigned one new top-level domain name. The low number was characterized as a cautious compromise between those who wanted no new TLDs at all and those who wanted many more; the new domains would serve as an experiment in the effects of registry-level competition. Competition within top-level domains would be fostered by shared access to registries. Both the new domains and the existing .com, .net, and .org domains would be opened up to competing registrars, and Network Solutions would be required to separate its registry and registrar businesses.

On trademark questions, the Green Paper specifically rejected waiting periods and a moratorium on new top-level domains as acceptable policy alternatives, and questioned the need for a uniform dispute resolution policy. Instead, it proposed that gTLD registries be required to select their own dispute resolution processes that met some minimum criteria specified in the Paper. [43 ]

Prior to the release of the Green Paper, on December 10, 1997, Magaziner had met with Jon Postel in Washington. Magaziner related what he called good news and bad news to Postel. The good news was that he had found funding for IANA that would last until September 30, 1998, the date when the new corporation envisioned in the Green Paper would be up and running. The bad news was that it would be the U.S. government, not Postel or IANA, that would decide whether and when new TLDs would be added to the root. [44 ]

Magaziner's warning made it clear to Postel, more than a month before the release of the Green Paper, that the U.S. government was not going to stand aside while the Internet Society, CORE, and POC took control of the root. Apparently concerned about the direction U.S. policy was taking, Postel on January 28 arranged for a challenge to U.S. authority that rivaled the gTLD-MoU in boldness. Postel organized a redirection of the root- what he later referred to as a test and others called a hijacking of the root.

The authoritative root zone file was hosted on the A root server operated by Network Solutions. NSI's operational control of the root was, of course, the chief impediment to the gTLD-MoU's ability to implement its plan. On that date in January, only two days before the public release of the Green Paper, Postel sent an email message to all the secondary root servers calling for a coordinated shift to IANA as the source of the authoritative root zone file. 'At some point down the road,' Postel wrote, 'it will be appropriate for the root domain to be edited and published directly by the IANA. As a small step in this direction we would like to have the secondaries for the root domain pull the root zone (by zone transfer) directly from IANA's own name server.' Based on these instructions from Postel, eight of the twelve root servers were modified to take their authoritative zone files from Postel's name server. Root servers B, C, D, F, I, K, L, and M-all of the servers at universities and research institutes, including RIPE and Nordunet in Europe-participated in Postel's 'test.' Servers E, G, H, and J-the ones at NASA, the U.S. military network, the Ballistics Research Lab, and NSI-did not. The claim to authoritative root server status was in play.

Although Postel later downplayed the significance of the event, there can be little doubt that the redirection was a direct challenge to U.S. government authority. Paul Vixie, who operated the K root server that participated in the redirection, conjectured that 'he was firing a shot across the bow, saying [to NSI] you may have COM, but I've got the dot.' [45 ]Vixie himself asked a friend the night before it happened to watch over his family if he went to jail. [46 ]

The implications of a coordinated redirection of the root were not lost on anyone. Although he did not do so, Postel could have added to the root server system the new gTLDs proposed by the gTLD-MoU. Had he done so, however, the result would have been two different Internet roots, possibly fragmenting Internet connectivity. [47 ]Magaziner and Burr learned of the redirection as they were putting the finishing touches on the Green Paper. Postel was ordered to return the root servers' configuration to their original state, and he complied. Magaziner later publicly stated that any attempt to manipulate the root without the U.S. government's permission would be prosecuted as a criminal offense.

[41 ]Stability, competition, private, bottom-up coordination, and representation were adopted as the basic principles to guide the transition.

[42 ]Three would be appointed by the Regional Address Registries, two by the Internet Architecture Board, and two by an as-yet-nonexistent 'membership association of registries and registrars.' The remaining seven members would represent Internet users, to be elected by an (also nonexistent) Internet users' members association.

[43 ]The minimum requirements involved a searchable database, accurate contact information, selection of a 'readily available and convenient dispute resolution process that requires no involvement by registrars,' and suspension of a domain name during a dispute if a trademark owner objected to it within 30 days of its registration. Green Paper (NTIA 1998a), Appendix 2, p. 8833.

[44 ]Email, Cook to author, August 12, 2000, with quotations from Magaziner interview, December 10, 1997.

[45 ]Interview with Paul Vixie, July 18, 2000.

[46 ]Email, Brian Reid to author, August 12, 2000.

[47 ]For news coverage of this event, see Sandra Gittlen, 'Taking the Wrong Root?' Network World, February 4, 1998; Ted Bridis, 'Clinton Administration Says Internet Reconfiguration Was Rogue Test,' Associated Press, February 5, 1998.

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Ruling the Root(c) Internet Governance and the Taming of Cyberspace
Ruling the Root: Internet Governance and the Taming of Cyberspace
ISBN: 0262134128
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 110

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