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September 29, 1998

WHILE NSI TALKS TURKEY, IANA LAYS A GOLDEN EGG

By CBR Staff Writer

The publication yesterday morning of a fifth draft from the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) appears to be a case of IANA testing the mettle of the US government, in particular that of presidential advisor Ira Magaziner. The IANA, a federal government contractor that looks after the assignment of blocks of IP addresses on the internet has eliminated a couple of controversial clauses in the previous draft and has presented its plan to Magaziner as the model for the new non-profit corporation to run the DNS.

At the end of last week, at the same time the talks between IANA and NSI broke off, we hear that IANA met with representatives from the European Union and Asian governments in Washington, who apparently urged Postel to get rid of the clauses, one of which could have perpetuated the monopoly of Network Solutions Inc (NSI), which looks after the .com, .net and .org registry.

Meanwhile, Magaziner and his team have been locked in negotiations with NSI over winding up its present contract, presumably signing a new short-term deal to maintain the stability of the DNS while responsibility is handed over to the new corporation. As domain name registration makes up almost all of NSI’s revenues, there is a lot at stake here for the Herndon, Virginia company, especially having gone public in summer last year. All this seems to have diverted NSI’s attention – hence the break up of talks with IANA -leaving IANA to claim the high ground. NSI was not available for comment yesterday.

Whatever shape or form the new corporation takes, or who is on its board, it will have to agree to whatever agreement NSI and the government sign. As for the board, there is still no word of who might be on it. The only method of choosing them would appear to be that Postel and his supporters are hand-picking the candidates – hardly the bottom-up process built on consensus that the government had in mind. Don Heath, president of the Internet Society, which is traditionally very close to IANA, admits that the selection process seems to be little bit mystical, as far as the interim board goes, but he feels sure that an open process will ensue when the first full board is chosen next year. However that would depend upon some sort of membership being in place for the corporation – an issue that is being left for the interim board to decide. The only name we’re fairly certain about is Esther Dyson, chairperson of Edventure Holdings and board member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), among many other things. However, it seems the initial board will be comprised mainly of non-internet types; some elder statesmen of business and academia. However, how would any of those be able to pass judgement on the technical issues? Presumably they’d need to call on IANA and NSI.

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