[NA-Discuss] Foreign Policy and the Internet

Eric Brunner-Williams ebw at abenaki.wabanaki.net
Mon Aug 13 02:15:19 UTC 2012

Hi Glenn,

This is the third part of the note I sent the na-discuss list
on the 10th.  My first note addressed the question of whether
there is an issue relevant to the choice of candidates, my second
note, in two accidental parts, addressed the question of whether the
ALAC has a duty to advise on the issues.

In this note I'll briefly point out what I think is in the public
interest unrestricted by territorial concerns, and can be communicated
as formal advice, to the Board, and government.

Unfortunately, the mistake as to cause for the growth of the internet
has to be dealt with, as taken at face value ordinarily sane people
start saying things about the UN that used to just decorate rural
billboards erected by the John Birch Society, or merely recite the
deregulatory mantra that has lead to market failure in so many areas
of the economy.

Senator Ron Wyden (D OR) chairs the Congressional Internet Caucus.  He
claims the absence of regulation is the primary cause for the growth
of network attached devices.

The importance of the mistake as to cause is that "growth" appears to
be objective (a sequence of numbers increasing non-linearly over
time), and is argued in the Wyden narrative to be the primary cause
for "innovation" and material and cultural well-being.  I've the
impression that this is the "standard narrative" in industry in North

The better analysis is that NIC prices dropped from the tens of
thousands of dollars for the VAX 11/780 (I bought several for SRI's
facilities in the mid-80s), to unpriced single-chip elements of the
standard single board computer.  Moore's Law was not restricted to NIC
components, nor was it restricted to those NIC components the East
Asian winners of the single board integration economic competition
selected for their North American sales.

The price of attaching a device to a network dropped under a force as
fundamental as gravity, unrelated to the public policy of any national
business, research or commodity computer market, in particular, the
climate in Silicon Valley, or Inside the Beltway.

The Wyden narrative can then only survive if attachment to networks in
national market is sensitive to regulation.  In my years of working
through the IETF (my first contribution was to RFCs 1122 and 1123,
though earlier I'd written the standard socket API description), I've
not heard that device attachment rates correlated to any but draconian
policies (e.g., Burma, North Korea), and the determining factor
generally was business uptake and consumer discretionary spending.  In
short, its all about declining manufacturing cost and access to
capital, not the presence, or absence, of the modern administrative state.

If regulation cannot be shown to have measurable effect, then the
public interest is not necessarily identical to the the corporate, and
momentary* administration interests in deregulation.

Whether the regulatory oversight arises from the FTC (consumer
protection), the FCC (telecommunications regulation), the DoJ
(competition regulation), the DoC (through, or independent of ICANN),
or some other agency of government**, alone or in combination, or
through agencies of the United States and one or more additional
governments, the claim that regulation will have measurable adverse
effect is unsupported except by ideology or economic interest in the
absence of regulatory oversight.

Thus the ALAC advice to the Board should be to distance itself from
the claims, unsupported by data, that deregulation, not DARPA dollars
leading manufacturers down the Moore's Law manufacturing cost curve,
created the current, unequal, but regionally pervasive, distributed
computing capability.

Further, the ALAC advice to the Board should be that regulation, by
one or more agencies, of one or more governments, presents no
intractable issue, and that as the incumbent contractor, it can
accommodate transition to a contractual model with two or more public

I know this all comes down to the ITU boogie man, it has been this way
for decades of fencing between the connectionless (data) and the
connectionist (voice) technical communities.  The ITU has gotten less
anachronistic -- in terms of technologies -- but it remains tied to a
territorial and revenue model that challenge -- fundamentally -- the
routing and transport model I helped document in RFCs 1122 and 1123.

However, the choices available to government, and therefore its
contractor, are not limited to one, or one hundred and eighty
governments.  Many trans-national resources are policied by a small
number of governments acting in the broader interest, with significant
policy participation by civil society, such as ALAC offers currently.

As a reminder, I'm running for the North American RALO ALAC Rep, not
writer for Foreign Policy, so I've skipped over the low hanging fruit
like whether the ITU is an obscure UN agency and so forth.

Eric Brunner-Williams
Candidate, NARALO ALAC Rep. election 2012

* Deregulation as a policy began during the Reagan and Bush I
Administrations, continued during the Clinton Administration, and
continued during the Bush II Administration.  I recommend the
accessible introduction to the second and third editions of Fox's
Administrative Law, available at any academic law library, for a few
thousand word summary of status of the American administrative state.

** the DoD oversight period ended when I was at SRI, and despite the
current froth of "cyber security" rhetoric and legislation, it is my
hope that militarization of the civil data infrastructure will not

Cc: Senator Ron Wyden, District Office, 405 East 8th Ave., Suite 2020
Eugene, OR, 97401 (via snail mail)

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