Fadhe Chehade, former CEO and President of Internet governance body ICANN, has sent ripples through the community following a recent decision to be the frontman a new Chinese government program to franchise their way of managing internet access to the world.
Chehade is probably familiar to many of you in my circles, as he was a guest on my program, theCUBE back in January of 2014, when we were attending and covering an event on Internet governance and economics.
I picked up this story over at SlashDot and The Register, who framed it in an overwhelmingly negative light. And who can blame them? Not only is China at the helm of this initiative to reformulate internet governance, so is Russia and “other authoritative governments.” This isn’t the stuff that dreams are made of. The headline from that interview was that “the way we govern the internet is not tenable.” A real cynic would say that Chehade, in our 2014 interview, was telling us ‘stop me, I’ll kill again!’
“The Internet is many many networks — what makes it one is a logical layer on top of the physical layer,” Chehade went on to say. “That logical layer includes what ICANN manages, names, numbers protocol parameters. That layer has to remain strong and in tact, in order for the physical infrastructure to be unified before we get to the application layer and content layer. If we lose that, and suddenly governments decide they will create their own numbering or naming system. A country like China, would name introduce to the world a Chinese Internet route.”
In the same interview, Fade told us that he saw the next eighteen months as critical, giving a “pinhole in a pipe analogy.” In his analogy, all it takes is a pinhole in a plumbing pipe to bring down the infrastructure of a house, and he saw the next eighteen months forward from January of 2014 as critical to maintaining the current approach to internet governance (that is to say, when you type in a thing that you’re looking for, you specifically get that thing – not a filtered or different thing that someone else wants you to see instead).
It was difficult to discern, knowing now what we do, whether he was simply emoting the sentiment of ICANN, or speaking from personal conviction as to how the internet works.
It’s somewhat disheartening, given all the excitement percolating around blockchain technologies, that Fade decided against pursuing one of those ends. NameCoin is a great proof of concept way forward for solving the perceived problems with ICANN specifically and Internet governance in general. The better angels around the world decry ICANN because of a US-centric worldview, and given the revelations by Edward Snowden in recent years, that the US has everyone’s best interests at heart is no longer the prevailing theory.
I think the true fear in Chehade’s decision to head this new organization is that every negative prediction he made to the audience at #MITECIR is now come to pass.