Just as the data processing industry has Patch Tuesday, the political establishment in Washington DC has Bad News Friday. Unlike Patch Tuesday, which is scheduled for the second Tuesday of the month at 10:00 AM PST/PDT, Bad News Friday can occur on any Friday near the close of business, but with sufficient time to ensure an early start to Friday Happy Hour at the local Washington DC watering holes. The primary function of Patch Tuesday is to call the public’s attention to critical software updates while to primary function of Bad News Friday is to distract the public’s attention from news which could be damaging to the Washington DC establishment.
On Friday March 14, 2014, at approximately 3:30 PM EDT, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that effective September 30, 2015 NTIA’s contact with IANA would expire and would not be renewed. This gives IANA, which is part of the ICANN, total control of the Internet. As a first step, NTIA asked that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) convene global stakeholders to develop a proposal to transition the current role played by NTIA in the coordination of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS). Basically after September 30, 2015 the Internet will be run by a cast of characters, many of whom may not have a vested interest in the preservation of free speech.
Getting the US Government out of the business of running the Internet is not a new idea. On January 28, 1998, Dr. Jon Postel, the Internet’s great law-giver, hijacked the Internet away from the US Government as a “test”. At the time, Dr. Ira Magaziner, President Clinton’s science advisor, informed Postel that “You’ll never work on the Internet again“. Magaziner’s threat proved to be prophetic because Postel died of complications resulting from heart surgery nine months later. After Postel’s death, the IANA functions were transferred to ICANN under contact to the US Government which retained oversight.
Under the correct leadership, ICANN could be an effective force to advance the cause of freedom, unfortunately there is no one of Jon Postel’s stature in evidence. ICANN’s record of stewardship has not been outstanding, as too much of their attention has been devoted to making the Internet safe for pornographers, extortionists and scammers of various stripes, when they should have been protecting the Internet user community. There are two critical issues which face the Internet:
1. End-to-end protection of all Internet traffic with easy to use strong encryption, with the cypher keys under user control.
2. Replacement of the existing centralized DNS structure with a secure Peer-to-Peer DNS.
It’s not clear that ICANN would be capable of advancing the above agenda but there’s hope this will be proven wrong. The fact that Bad News Friday was chosen to make the unscheduled announcement is a clear indication that the Washington DC establishment doesn’t anticipate a favorable outcome and wants to distance themselves from the fallout. On the other hand, there are many officials in Washington who would be a lot happier if the Bill of Rights didn’t extend to the Internet. The good news is that the Internet can be fixed and there is a growing worldwide community working to address those issues.
The following are some of the stories which are appearing on the Internet pertaining to the Friday announcement.