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EFF Press Release on IANA/NSI Draft New-IANA Bylaws, Vers. 4

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- 9:30 AM, Thursday, September 24, 1998


Alex Fowler, +1 415 436 9333, afowler@eff.org
Barry Steinhardt, +1 212 549 2508, barrys@eff.org
John Gilmore, +1 415 221 6524, gnu@toad.com

Internet Administration Plan
Undermines Free Speech and Effective Governance

Electronic Frontier Foundation Proposes Revised IANA Bylaws Emphasizing Need to Protect Free Expression, Openness, and Effectiveness

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- A proposed plan to revamp the Internet domain naming system would threaten both the democratic governance of the Internet, and basic human rights of free expression and due process on the Internet, said the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today.

EFF's proposed substantial changes in the scheme in an open letter and set of proposed bylaw changes sent to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI). Together, IANA and NSI have drafted a "New IANA" plan to revamp Internet administration. A June Clinton Administration White Paper called for changes reflecting the global nature of the Net, and addressing policy deadlocks, over-centralization, and several other current problems. The New IANA plan is considered the main contender in satisfying these requirements. EFF argues that the most recent New IANA plan fundamentally fails to meet these requirements.

EFF Board member John Gilmore said, "We believe that the latest IANA/NSI proposal does not follow the requirements set forth by the White Paper for protecting openness and free expression."

"EFF and many other organizations have quietly sent issues and suggestions to the architects of the New IANA over many months," he continued. "We are publicizing this set of proposals because the deficiencies are so serious and time is so short."

What's at stake is the administrative responsibility for technical details of the Internet. A new nonprofit organization will oversee the management of domain name registration, Internet address allocation, and publication of technical standards and protocol agreements. The New IANA, a nonprofit being formed to take on this responsibility, would determine future policy around these jobs. NSI's five-year government contract to exclusively administer the COM, NET, and ORG domains is expiring after a six-month extension at the end of this month. NSI has attempted to position itself to keep this job permanently, while many other parties would prefer competition in domain services.

Shari Steele, Staff Counsel at EFF, said, "Internet administration has always guaranteed free speech and due process, since it has been done by U.S. Government contractors who are required to follow the U.S. Constitution. If the New IANA moves Internet administration out from under the U.S. Government, as there is general agreement to do, the public will lose these guarantees unless they are explicitly written into the charter of the New IANA."

EFF believes that the proposed New IANA Bylaws do not protect the public in the following four areas:

EFF has crafted a set of enhanced and revised Bylaws that address these four areas, which are vital to protect the public interest.

"As a basic principle, any foundation for governance of a communications system, such as the Internet, should stand on the fundamental human right of free expression," said EFF President Barry Steinhardt. "The strongest guarantees of free speech and publication, due process, and nondiscriminatory administration should be written into the charter of any organization empowered with Internet oversight."

"What was suppossed to be an excercise in Internet democracy has become an excercise in Internet oligarchy," he concluded.

"Thousands of people have put years of effort into this next step in Internet governance. We owe it to ourselves and to the rest of the Internet community to build a structure that will effectively grapple with the divisive and commercially lucrative issues at stake. If we create an ineffective organization, or lose protection for fundamental human rights, it will take years of further work to clean up the resulting problems," added Gilmore.

EFF has been tracking the DNS governance issue for the past several years. One of EFF's Board members is on the IANA Transition Advisory Group; another has agreed to join the Initial Board; a third was instrumental in the CORE effort to provide a capable competitor in global domain registration. In addition, EFF's legal staff has tracked and commented on numerous proposed policies and drafts, while our activists have closely followed the controversies online and in the press.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is one of the leading civil liberties organizations devoted to ensuring that the Internet remains the world's first truly global vehicle for free speech, and that the privacy and security of all on-line communication is preserved. Founded in 1990 as a nonprofit, public interest organization, EFF is based in San Francisco, California. EFF maintains an extensive archive at http://www.eff.org of information on electronic privacy, online free speech, and encryption policy.