11.14.2005Google is just one of the key players in the current battle over centralization over the internet.
NYT: Control the Internet? A Futile Pursuit, Some Say
"Everyone seems to think that the D.N.S. system is a big deal, but it's not the heartbeat of the Internet," said Leonard Kleinrock, a computer scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who did pioneering research in data packet switching, the fundamental technique underlying networks. "Who controls the flow of the ocean? Nobody controls it, and it works just fine. There are some things that can't be controlled and should be left distributed."
Icann was created at the Clinton administration's behest as a private-public alliance to oversee Internet addresses. Although Icann says it is advised by more than 80 nations and has had citizens of many countries on its board, it operates under a memorandum of understanding with the Commerce Department.
Icann was founded with the intent of becoming an independent or "denationalized" group. But in June, the Bush administration backed away from that plan, saying in a "statement of principles" issued by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration that the United States had the right to maintain oversight of Icann indefinitely.
"The idea of taking over Icann is a nonstarter," said Robert Kahn, who as a Pentagon executive oversaw the financing of the original Arpanet and was later responsible, with Vinton G. Cerf, for the design of the Internet's crucial software framework, known as TCP/IP. "There is nothing in there to control, and there are huge issues that the governments of the world really do need to work on."
Unlike centralized networks with a single point of failure and control, the Internet was designed to suffer damage and continue to function. That same quality makes it exceedingly difficult to control or filter.
"The idea of Internet control is an oxymoron," said Robert Taylor, who as a director at the Advanced Research Projects Agency in the Pentagon during the 1960's initiated the development of the Arpanet.
Having written about the idea of using computers for communications during the 1960's, Mr. Taylor rejected the idea of basing the network on a centralized computer and instead adopted a proposal put forward by an electrical engineer, Wesley A. Clark, to build a network with no center point of control.
"I didn't trust big centralized organizations," he recalled.
Now he suspects that part of the political conflict is about the vast wealth that has been created by the Internet. "I suspect there is a belief there is money to be made," he said.