Sascha Ignjatovic (
Tue, 7 Jul 1998 23:23:03 +0200 (MET DST)


Perhaps the most contentious point to come out of the
International Forum on the White paper (IFWP) last
week was whether or not those attending were a
representative sample of the internet, commonly
referred to these days as the "stakeholders." The
issue was raised early on and it quickly became
apparent that it would be a major bone of contention,
because if it could not be agreed that the 200 or so
people that attended over the two days represented
the stakeholders, then anything they agreed was
pretty meaningless.

That feeling was echoed by internet veteran Einar
Stefferud when he said, "nothing that comes out of
here is a decision." There were six working groups,
three on each day. In summing up the activities of
workshop 'B' on the first day, which was charged with
looking into the board of directors and the
membership of the non-profit entity to run the DNS,
group reporter Christopher Ambler, who was at the
conference representing himself, reported that the
group decided that "at some point you need to define
who the stakeholders are and...for now at least, we
are the stakeholders." That triggered many people to
address the microphone at the meeting and request
that some sort of technological solution be found
quickly to include those not able to physically attend
the meeting. But nothing was agreed. Jason Hendeles
- who runs a Canadian internet service provider -
proposed on the first day that there be a two week
period following the meeting for people to log on to
some sort of list or web site and from the group at the
meeting and the group online, a limited stakeholder
group be defined. He tried to put the motion to a vote,
but was met with a total lack of interest. That prompted
Steve Bellovin of AT&T Corp to come to the mike:
"This group has got a very serious issue of
legitimacy," he said. "we have no a prior mechanism
for legitimacy, we have to get people to buy in," he

Many people we spoke to that evening expressed a
desire for some sort of agreement on whether the
debate should continue online, but were resigned to
the fact that such an agreement was not going to
happen and participants would merely retire to the
mailing lists of choice. Bearing in mind the meeting
was the IFWP for the Americas (note the plural),
perhaps not surprisingly it was dominated by US
representatives of companies in the internet
infrastructure business. There was a spattering of
Canadian ISP interests, but only one representative
from South America, Cabase, an ISP trade association
from Argentina, who complained to us that issues such
as telecommunications deregulation were not being
addressed, and one representative from the NIC in
Mexico. Users were also under-represented at the

The Center for Democracy and Technology and the
Domain Name Rights Coalition were both represented
and actively participated, but that was about the extent
of it. CDT's deputy director Danny Weitzner urged the
meeting to "reach out to the rest of the internet
community, not just the commercial interests." But in a
meeting dominated by commercial interests, with a
steering committee dominated by ISP and their trade
associations, it was never going to happen.