TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Getting Serious About the War on Spam

Re: Getting Serious About the War on Spam

Fred Goldstein (
Fri, 22 Apr 2005 23:40:25 -0400

Pat replied to me,

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: In other words, John Postel gave away
> something he did not really own, and attorney Sims went along with
> the scam.

No, Jon Postel really did run the Internet, on federal contract. When
he was alive, it (naming and numbering) was his baby (via USC ISI, his
employer), and AFAIK nobody had a problem with him. He was a
government-funded academic, a holdover from the good old
pre-commercial days when the net was run by network engineers rather
than financial engineers, and he had no personal pecuniary interests.
He just took pride in a job well done. So nobody talked about a
succession plan. Had he lived to a planned retirement, something
could have been planned. But he died suddenly.

The "alleged" scam began with Joe Sims, who quickly came out of the
woodwork with ICANN, which nobody had heard of when Jon was alive.
Sims, per some reports, claimed to be following Jon's will. It seemed
like a pretty obvious bluff, but since all that matters is whose root
servers the big ISPs point at, Joe managed to get critical mass behind
himself. This was during the boom, when money flowed freely, and Joe
got a lot of high-rate billable hours for his law firm out of the
deal. That was probably what he was after! (You can get rich off of
a non-profit organization.)

> Fred, you mention ICANN is essentially a 'paper tiger' with no real
> authority, but however they came to get their 'authority' from the
> United States Commerce Department, in any event they have it now,
> the 'authority', I mean.

Well, no -- the Commerce Department can't order ISPs to point their
root servers at ICANN's roots. That's voluntary. Commerce can thrown
money at them though, so they can find ever-more-exotic locations for
old-fashioned big meetings. Heaven forbid they try to conduct more
business across that unreliable, newfangled Internet thingie!

> Do you agree with my assessment that ICANN
> is happy with the mess things are in now? They wouldn't want to
> change anything at all, would they? I mean, was the construction of
> the contracts now used totally an accident? I don't think it was.

I suspect they're quite happy.

> They could have said *something* about the ever present maliciousness
> and malfeasance if they had _really wanted to_, am I right?

If you mean spam and phishing, no. That's simply not part of their
claimed area of authority, which is names (DNS) and numbers (mostly IP
addresses). They don't deal directly with most ISPs, just with
registrars and registries. They've tried to impose some "intellectual
property" rules onto the national registrars (the two-letter ISO
country-code TLDs) but that has met with limited success -- they
haven't (that I know of) had a real big stare-down over a major
country domain's ownership. A few spats with tinhorn governments,
perhaps, but they've exercised some restraint.

I think I've also answered Steve Sobol's questions at least indirectly.

Fred Goldstein k1io fgoldstein "at"
ionary Consulting

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