I* Wrap: From the London meeting

By on 5 May 2015

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I recently attended a two-day conference in London with executives of a group of organizations responsible for coordination of the Internet technical infrastructure. This family is sometimes referred to as the “I*” (I-star) group, though this may be misleading if it implies a formality which doesn’t exist in this loose coordination of independent peers.

The group has met several times during the last four years to share and consider issues affecting the future of the Internet. These meetings have been helpful for us all to better understand the work and priorities of others, and to help coordinate activities such as our approach to international and intergovernmental organizations. By meeting in this way we’ve been able to avoid duplication of work, build cooperation, and better use our resources.

During the London meeting, we discussed a range of topics, some of which had also been discussed 1.5 years ago in Montevideo (and addressed in the Statement which was released soon after). These included:

  • Interrelated developments in encryption, mobile Internet and cybersecurity
  • Scenarios and preparations for WSIS+10 and the upcoming IGF
  • The IANA stewardship transition

In this report I want to provide an update on the London discussions, and some personal perspectives which I think are relevant to the APNIC and wider communities.

1. Ubiquitous Security: Increasing Trust in the Internet
Since the Montevideo Statement, some important decisions have been made by the IETF community to improve confidence and security in Internet communications. In November 2014, the IAB stated its support for “encryption by default” across all Internet standards, while the IETF team was also developing the draft HTTP/2 protocol, enabling strong encryption for all WWW traffic.  In February this year, HTTP/2 was approved by the IESG, and it is in the RFC Editor’s publication queue. Already the protocol is being deployed actively through browser and server software updates – so that in a short time, a significant portion of web traffic will be encrypted automatically.

The same principle of “ubiquitous security” is being applied in updates to other existing protocols, as well as to new protocols in future. I believe these are very significant achievements by the standards community, and will certainly improve future security and confidence in the Internet.

2. Mobile: Soon to be the Last Mile for Billions
The critical importance of the “mobile Internet” is clear, with nearly a billion devices added to the Internet in the past year. In London however, we questioned whether mobile networks and technologies are being built for full and effective inter-operation with the established Internet infrastructure. If not, the Internet is at serious risk of fragmentation along the lines of network operators and carriage technologies; and this must certainly be avoided in the interest of a cohesive globally-connected Internet.

My own observation is that mobile networks will soon serve as the default “last mile” of connectivity in developing economies; just as, in the absence of copper infrastructure, mobile voice became the default during the 1990s. For perhaps billions of people, the “wireless last mile” will be the default Internet access infrastructure, via access points in homes and offices; which in turn places great importance on IPv6. Without IPv6, billions of devices will sit behind not one but two layers of IPv4 Network Address Translation (NAT), and suffer significant performance and stability penalties as a result. I will write more on this in another blog.

3. WSIS+10: The future of Global Internet Governance
Another important issue requiring cooperation across the Internet community during 2015 is the UN’s WSIS+10 process, which will again try to address “Internet Governance” issues including the future of the IGF. The London meeting discussed scenarios and possible outcomes of this process, and a widespread concern that WSIS+10 has been designed as an inter-governmental process, with wider participation limited to “consultation”. Our concerns in this area are being submitted to the UN in a joint contribution from a number of Internet organizations.

It is an established position of many, if not all, of the I* group that the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) should continue as the primary global venue for discussions of Internet regulation, development and application, towards the best development of the emerging “Information Society”. As the IGF finishes its 2nd cycle, with the 10th meeting coming up in Brazil, it is very important that any decision on IGF renewal is made with full regard to the views of the global multistakeholder community.

4. Globalizing IANA: The Stewardship Transition
The majority of our time in London was spent in discussion of the IANA Stewardship Transition process, which we also called for in the Montevideo Statement. This complex and decentralized process is underway right now, with plans of the three distinct operational communities now published and ready to be assembled by the ICG into a single coherent IANA transition plan. At the same time the question of ICANN accountability is being studied intently, while the United States Government is still considering if and how its final decision with be made.

I believe the most fundamental position of the “I*” group, which is also reflected clearly in the NTIA’s own transition requirements, is the final plan and the ultimate arrangements for the IANA transition MUST be genuinely reflective of the multistakeholder Internet community. That is no trivial expectation, but it is agreed that preservation of that principle is more important than the transition itself.

The NRO Executive Council, in its own coordination meeting after the I-star retreat, released a statement on the IANA transition. In it, we commended the unprecedented work of the IANA communities in developing concrete proposals for planning the IANA stewardship transition.

This statement does not reflect all of the topics of the London meeting, as discussed in this post, but rather focuses on the issue most critical (in our view) to the communities of the RIRs. Other participants in the London meeting are likely to release their own reports and perspectives, which will be recommended reading as they emerge.

5. Our Common Mission: Distributed Stability
This latest “I*” meeting was held 1.5 years after the “Montevideo Statement”. While that statement was sometimes interpreted as a “top-down” vision, very important progress has been made on most the issues it addressed. All of this progress has been driven by the Internet communities in an open, bottom-up fashion that constitutes the notion of Internet cooperation.

I am very happy that our peer and collaborating organizations share so many (if not all) viewpoints on such important questions; that there has been solidarity. Whether we articulate it in this way, the missions of our organisations, and the work we do, are for the cause of a secure, stable and trusted global Internet infrastructure.

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The views expressed by the authors of this blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of APNIC. Please note a Code of Conduct applies to this blog.

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