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Internet Standards Process and the Public Interest PowerPoint PPT Presentation

Internet Standards Process and the Public Interest A Presentation to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST) By Robert E. Kahn March 22, 2005 The Internet Standards Process The Internet standards process is key to the evolution of the Internet

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Internet standards process and the public interest l.jpg

Internet Standards Processand the Public Interest

A Presentation to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST)


Robert E. Kahn

March 22, 2005

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The Internet Standards Process

  • The Internet standards process is key to the evolution of the Internet

  • Multiple Groups are involved, but the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) plays a dominant role

  • Challenges for the IETF:

    • Insuring a level playing field for all participants

    • Combining innovation with Stability

    • Clearing impediments to Architectural change

    • Assurances against default capture by special interest groups – funding considerations

    • Representing the broader public interest

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How was the Internet Standards Process developed?

  • Initially, it was part of a DARPA research project and managed by DARPA (1973 – 1985)

  • In 1978, DARPA formed an Internet Configuration Control Board (ICCB) consisting of twelve network implementers from the research community plus the DARPA leadership

  • The ICCB meetings were open to “listeners” and by 1983 we had hundreds of attendees for a meeting of twelve principals.

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Internet Activities Board (IAB)

  • The IAB replaced the ICCB in 1983

  • It too, consisted of twelve members, and began with ten working groups

  • By 1986, there were over fifty working groups all coordinated by the IAB

  • One of the working groups, called Internet Engineering, was asked to coordinate the working groups and to report to the IAB.

  • This became known as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)

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The Role of NSF

  • NSF followed the DARPA effort by expanding the networking base to the larger research and education community in the U.S.

  • It created NSFNET and expanded network connections internationally

  • It assumed responsibility for supporting the IAB and the IETF in the 1980s after DARPA terminated its ongoing networking programs via a Cooperative Agreement with CNRI

  • Direct U.S. Government support ended at the end of 1997 when the Cooperative Agreement ended

  • At that point, continued support seemed possible from meeting attendance fees.

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What is the IETF?

  • Developed as a consensus-based mechanism for developing Internet Standards – grass roots, bottom up

  • Open to anyone who wishes to participate

  • The IETF is now organized into more than 100 working groups with its own management structure

  • The leadership consists of:

    • IETF Chair, Area Directors, Working Group Chairs and a Steering Group (IESG).

  • Publication of Standards via “RFC Series”

  • Coordination with IANA on various matters

  • More recently, with Internet growth and uptake, the workload has increased, and the IETF has been forced to slow down and try to adapt

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Method of Operation

  • Working Groups (WGs) meet as they please, where they please, and much work occurs on the Internet

  • New WGs require approved charters

  • Three meetings per year, two in the US

  • Typical attendance 1000 – 3000 people

  • Funding primarily from attendance fees

    • Financial support from CNRI as needed; plus meeting sponsorships

  • Much activity on-line, mailing lists, automated tracking/dispatching of actions, etc.

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Original Model of Support(1988 – 1997)











Work done


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Subsequent Model of Support(1998 – present)












Work done


Enable the

IETF Secretariat

In the public interest

Foretec created in 1998

as a subsidiary of CNRI

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Issues with the Current Mode of Operation

  • Meeting attendance down significantly in past 3 years – Internet bubble, 9-11, etc, maturation of the IETF

  • Shortfalls in past two years, staff reductions

  • Lack of agreement on supplemental funding sources with IETF leadership  undermanned

  • Use of “dot org” support being explored to supplement meeting fees via Internet Society

  • No mechanisms to regulate demand for service

    • Or renegotiate changes in available resources

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IETF Attendance & Revenue

  • Attendance for 3 Meetings per year

  • Gov’t funds used through 1997

  • Attendance rose until 2000 then fell

  • Prognosis for the period 2006 - 2010 is 2500 - 3000/year

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One Proposed Restructuring Model

IETF Foundation

Fund Raising &

Public Interest Oversight




RFC Editor

Technical Leadership &

Standards development



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Current Restructuring Plan

New Service Provider



Internet Administrative

Support Activity


Sale of






Transfer of


IP and other







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  • An IETF Activity for administering the Internet Standards Process

  • The IETF Administrative Director (IAD) would be an employee of the Internet Society

  • The IETF Administrative Oversight Committee (IAOC) would consist of eight voting members and the IAD who serves, ex officio, as a non-voting member of the IAOC

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IAOC Voting Members

  • 2 members appointed by a nominating committee of the IETF

  • 1 member appointed by the IESG

  • 1 member appointed by the IAB

  • 1 member appointed by the Internet Society Board of Trustees

  • The IETF Chair (ex officio)

  • The IAB Chair (ex officio)

  • The ISOC President/CEO (ex officio)

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IAD Responsibilities

  • Manage the IASA to meet the administrative needs of the IETF

    • Establish an operating budget and administer IETF finances

    • Issuing RFPs, helping to select service providers and negotiating contracts

    • Managing business relationships

    • Establishing mechanisms to track performance

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IAOC Responsibilities

  • Provide direction to the IAD on behalf of the IETF leadership

  • Oversee the functioning of the IASA (not an operating role)

  • Specifically

    • Select the IAD and provide high-level review and direction

    • Review plans and contracts

    • Develop corrective actions where needed

  • Temporarily assume duties of the IAD, if there is no IAD or the IAD is unavailable

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Ensuring the Public Interest

  • The IETF has been effective in managing the development of Internet Standards to date

  • It may have mattered less in the past, but at present, there is no formal means within the IETF to ensure the broad public interest is addressed

  • Only those who can afford to attend IETF meetings and participate in the process are likely to influence the development of standards

  • There is no test of the larger public good, and no means to affect technical decisions about standards whose implications may go beyond the interests of IETF participants

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Some Concerns?

  • The IETF believes the current processes are satisfactory to meet future needs and that they are able to change them, as appropriate

  • The United Nations wants to play a role in this domain, especially with the convergence of online and wireless technology, including now telephony and video services

  • Some nations feel that “legitimacy” requires a body like the UN to play a leading role

  • Despite its origins, most private sector business groups are convinced that the Internet cannot flourish under Government dominion, whether the UN or any individual government.

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Possible Next Steps?

  • Cause a dialog to be initiated involving multiple stakeholders to identify the public interest issues which require attention and are effected by technical choices that have impact beyond the purely technical

  • Use these results to inform ourselves (as a nation) and to work with other informed nations in moving forward with a domestic and global agenda to address these issues

  • The list of issues are potentially quite large; a small sampler set might include:

    • Identifying and protecting against anti-competitive technical practices; empowering disadvantaged citizens on the net; allowing for interoperability among different information systems; providing visibility into information management practices; building network-based diagnostic and forensic tools

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