Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Internet's Magic Number: Lucky 13

I've been reading a Foreign Affairs article on demands from outside the U.S. to transfer Internet Governace from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to a sort of International organization. I'll let author KENNETH NEIL CUKIER carefully balance the issues, but pull out one important tidbit:

The database is the world's most important Rolodex. Yet due to a technical hiccup that occurred when the network was young, there can be only 13 root servers, some of which provide data to mirror sites around the world. As a result, somebody must decide who will operate the root servers and where those operators will be based. Because the system evolved informally, the root servers' administrators are diverse, including NASA, a Dutch nonprofit organization, universities, the U.S. military, and private companies. Today, all told, ten root servers are operated from the United States and one each from Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Tokyo.

I recommend the article.


Anonymous Layton Olson said...

Interesting article, and poses for me the parallel question of "oversight and interaction" agencies among countries of daily activity of electricity, other utilities and transport (e.g. air/rail/auto access control/passport/immigration/customs and other data sharing). I believe "telecom oversight" is becoming more like "electricity oversight" in terms of tracking "identify nodes" of connection and use for operational,
cooperation, reporting, modeling and other uses. Within such a context, it would seem appropriate for ICANN (whatever its corporate structure) to interact with any appropriate state-based, nation-based or other data processing institution, such as a university or r/d center (multi-state-regional). For example, one would think in a "node monitoring and reporting" system that a state (like Illinois) might require all telecom carriers to use an IP address for on-line, real-time monitoring and reporting via state-of-the-art center (in time, there might only be a half dozen or so around the country), which in turn, would generate appropriate reports to state oversight agencies like ICC, and FCC, concerning capacity, usage, service quality, investment and other data. That is, I'm no expert on ICANN, but do believe the article is helpful in thinking about a variety of "data node" sharing in a "world body politic-human and environment" system in which telecom serves a bit like the nervous system.

Layton Olson, Chicago, Midwest Technology Access Group

3:00 PM  

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