Internet governance

I've been getting more and more pessimistic about Internet governance.

Whenever a (human-level) system has a mismatch between responsibility and authority, abuses pop up. These abuses grow until one of three things happens:

In Internet governance, as far as I can tell, the mismatch is total, making the equilibrium state unworkable.

For example, ARIN has a de-jure requirement that netblock owners keep their contact info up to date. However, even if you point out a netblock—actively being used for abuse—which has totally bogus contact info (we're talking things like phone numbers of 1-111-111-1111, here, not just "that street was renamed last year"), the most ARIN will do is put a little note up saying that the contact info is out of date and asking anyone with updated info to tell ARIN about it. They (apparently) won't even consider revoking the assignment.

For example, RIPE[1] has flat-out refused to do anything about their abuse sewer, saying that "[t]he RIPE NCC is not and cannot be responsible for the content of the RIPE Database".

For example, Nominet, the entity who manages the .UK TLD, refuses to hand out emails for .uk domain registrants, refuses to pass mail along, and refuses to take anti-abuse actions against abuser registrants. (Or at least they did in 2003; if you have reason to think this has changed, please let me know!)

I'm sure there are almost as many similar issues as there are entities involved in Internet governance. And the common thread? They all have been given authority over something (address space and domains, in the examples above) without having any corresponding responsibility imposed for how that thing is used.

I've pointed this out repeatedly, to the point where I've gotten tired of it and no doubt a few of the people who overlap most heavily with me on the mailing lists we're members of have gotten tired of it too. This even includes one person at the IAB? ICANN? IANA? (I forget), into contact with whom I was specifically put by a friend who apparently agrees with me at least somewhat; the wording was something like "(name), I think you need to hear this".

And despite all that, I've seen no reason to think this is even being thought about by anyone with any influence over Internet governance.

I suppose that's what happens when you put the US Department of Commerce in charge of something: it turns into a vehicle for making money, and everything else be damned. As long as it doesn't collapse so far that it stops making money for the top levels, there's nothing wrong with it.

Which wouldn't be a problem—the USA deserves the government it gets, mostly—except that it's getting inflicted on the rest of the world. I really think the best thing here would be for the non-USA world to start ignoring the top levels designated by the USA government; they are doing what they are designed to do (concentrate money from many hands to a few hands) but not doing what the rest of the world needs (governing well).

It would probably be difficult for the non-USA world to set up a less corrupted-by-money governance structure. But there is some chance that might work, and I see none under the current system. (Furthermore, the USA government badly needs a sharp reminder that the USA is not the whole world.)

Arguably, we need Jon Postel back. As long as he was at the top of Internet governance, we had a net run by someone who cared more about having a well-run net than about making money. While it's difficult to point to a single cause when so many things change at once, I believe his death, or more precisely his removal as the top of the governance pyramid, was a substantial part of the reason the net started its current stampede to the bottom.

But I greatly fear nothing will stop the current powerdiving joyriders until the plane they're riding runs into the ground. If, as a real powerdiving plane would, it killed its riders in the crash, this might not be so bad (evolution in action), but the analogy breaks down there: they will walk away (with a lot of money) and go on to find some other group to leech more money from.

This is why I'm no longer doing much active abuse-fighting: I consider it rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Any anti-abuse efforts at the levels I can reach are, at the very best, stopgap delaying tactics. If I thought something helpful were being done and it just needed more time, I might see this as worth doing. I don't.

[1] I am aware that there are distinctions between various things to which the RIPE name applies. I do not keep up with the details, and, for my purposes here, they don't matter. I am talking about the entity that manages IP space for European assignees, whatever its `proper' name may be this week—the entity to whom authority over IP space is granted (without responsibility for its use) and which grants authority over sub-blocks thereof (but does not impose the concomitant responsibility).