Search /
Advanced search  |  Help  |  Site map
Click for Layer 8! No, really, click NOW!
Networking for Small Business
Where's my gigabit Internet, anyway?
Americans cool with lab-grown organs, but not designer babies
IE6: Retired but not dead yet
Enterprise who? Google says little about Apps, business cloud services in Q1 report
DDoS Attackers Change Techniques To Wallop Sites
Can we talk? Internet of Things vendors face a communications 'mess'
AMD's profitability streak ends at two quarters
Michaels says breach at its stores affected nearly 3M payment cards
Exclusive: Google's Project Loon tests move to LTE band in Nevada
H-1B loophole may help California utility offshore IT jobs
How a cyber cop patrols the underworld of e-commerce
For Red Hat, it's RHEL and then…?
Will the Internet of Things Become the Internet of Broken Things?
Kill switches coming to iPhone, Android, Windows devices in 2015
Israeli start-up, working with GE, out to detect Stuxnet-like attacks
Galaxy S5 deep-dive review: Long on hype, short on delivery
Google revenue jumps 19 percent but still disappoints
Windows XP's retirement turns into major security project for Chinese firm
Teen arrested in Heartbleed attack against Canadian tax site
Still deploying 11n Wi-Fi?  You might want to think again
Collaboration 2.0: Old meets new
9 Things You Need to Know Before You Store Data in the Cloud
Can Heartbleed be used in DDoS attacks?
Secure browsers offer alternatives to Chrome, IE and Firefox
Linksys WRT1900AC Wi-Fi router: Faster than anything we've tested

An unhealthy tension

Related linksToday's breaking news
Send to a friendFeedback

Bradner archive

Congress held a hearing on the Internet on Feb. 8. Such a hearing is hardly a unique occurrence, but in this case, it is symptomatic of a growing problem.

This particular hearing was held by the House Telecommunications Subcommittee and was in response to the creation of new top-level Internet domains by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

As an aside, the press coverage on this demonstrates why the press is held in such high regard - not! The Wall Street Journal called ICANN "the Internet Council for assigned Names and Numbers" and The New York Times insists, in an example of its "we know better than you" attitude, on spelling ICANN as "Icann."

The problem with this hearing is that ICANN was specifically set up as a nongovernmental way to manage some of the mostly technical aspects of the Internet. ICANN's board members are from around the world, and its mandate is international. The Internet that ICANN deals with is international.

Yet the U.S. Congress, and other parts of the U.S. government, insists on treating the Internet and ICANN as being under U.S. jurisdiction. I don't want to debate ICANN's virtues or lack of them but I am worried about the example being set and the attitude being legitimized.

The U.S. Congress holding this hearing is no better than a French court forcing Yahoo to censor what material it offers over the Internet or an Italian court claiming jurisdiction over the entire Internet, both of which have happened in the past few months.

It's one thing for a country to tell its citizens they are not permitted to go, for example, to the CNN Web site because it includes information that disagrees with some government position, and to try to block access to the site by insisting that filters be placed on its international Internet links. It's altogether something different to claim that a government has the right to force CNN to close down when the CNN Web site is not in that government's country.

The Wall Street Journal says Congress is "unlikely to reverse ICANN Internet names." Based on the reports, some House members clearly think they could if they wanted to. Because ICANN is based in the U.S., I expect that these Congressmen could force ICANN to capitulate. But it would be extraordinarily shortsighted for Congress to do such a thing.

The U.S. Congress would just show the rest of the world that an individual country should be able to claim authority over the Internet. Having 280 countries follow this lead and pass conflicting regulations would be very bad for anyone trying to use or do business on the Internet. That's a tension we can do without. The best example that Congress can set is to keep its hands off.

Disclaimer: Luckily, Harvard does not have much salutatory authority because some Harvard people would otherwise exercise it. But the above suggestion is mine, not Harvard's.


Bradner is a consultant with Harvard University's University Information Systems. He can be reached at

More 'Net Insider columns

Get Bradner in your inbox via our

Gibbs & Bradner weekly e-mail newsletter.

Reaction: Here's what some Fusion users are saying about this article: What do you think? Add your comments to the thread

NWFusion offers more than 40 FREE technology-specific email newsletters in key network technology areas such as NSM, VPNs, Convergence, Security and more.
Click here to sign up!
New Event - WANs: Optimizing Your Network Now.
Hear from the experts about the innovations that are already starting to shake up the WAN world. Free Network World Technology Tour and Expo in Dallas, San Francisco, Washington DC, and New York.
Attend FREE
Your FREE Network World subscription will also include breaking news and information on wireless, storage, infrastructure, carriers and SPs, enterprise applications, videoconferencing, plus product reviews, technology insiders, management surveys and technology updates - GET IT NOW.