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    USA Goverment Relations DoC to reorganize technology section
    posted by tbyfield on Friday February 14 2003, @08:25AM

    The U.S. Department of Commerce has announced that it will "modernize the structure for the Department's formulation of technology and telecommunications policy," because, according to Secretary Evans, "Convergence is the business model in the digital economy" and, therefore, "it should be the business model in the federal government." The press release quotes Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Nancy Victory -- ICANN's overseer -- as stressing that "what matters most is performance and results." So maybe this reorganization at the DoC will put "performance and results" on the front burner at ICANN? If so, one wonders what exactly will be performed and what the results will be. To date, these questions, and the consistent criteria their clear establishment should invite, have been rather elusive.



    The reinvented DoC's "technology" bureaucracy -- if Congress approves them -- "will combine the Technology Administration (TA), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the e-commerce policy functions of the International Trade Administration (ITA) into one consolidated and well-coordinated agency." Granted, a press release can hardly be expected to capture much nuance, but, still, this new constellation of technology, telecoms, and e-commerce somehow sounds very familiar -- as though the DoC were just coming to grips with the informatic terrain of, say, 1996. There are subtle cues that the DoC does indeed recognize that times have changed: the heady sense internationalist potential that gave rise, on the other side, to neoplatonic polemics like John Perry Barlow's "Cyberspace Independence Declaration" (written seven years ago last Sunday) has long since given way to a world in which the sort of bumperstickerish JPEGs on the DOC's site proclaiming "American Jobs American Values" are more the norm.

    That's fine, I guess; but, still, it's worth noting that the same old problems posed by expansive, extensible, and brilliantly "stupid" networks, in which protocol parameters jostle national perimeters, linger on. In this environment, the kinds of nostalgia -- for American Values and Business Models -- that seem to be animating the DoC's omphaloskeptical reorganization seem like they may not be up to the tasks of the times. Convergence may be what the Zeitgeist is riding these days, but it's a condition, not a business model; and surely, if there was one lesson to be learned from the period of the dotcom debacle, it was that that confabulating the two doesn't work very well. If that's the kind of confusion that reigns at the DoC, one can only wonder how that agency will grapple with the same old problems -- consensus, standards, process, jurisdiction, forum, equity (in both senses), and so on.

    ICANN has gotten a lot of mileage so far out by parlaying its stated mandate of "technical coordination" into just about everything but that. One would hope that its overseer, the DoC, could both learn from the lessons of its troublesome proxy and rein that proxy in. However, given the current political climate in which the U.S. seems happy to upset the apple cart in every possible way, it's more likely that the "convergence" will lead to just the opposite: teaching its proxy new and upsetting tricks while giving it that much more slack. If so, its proxy may well encounter stiff new resistance from people, organizations, and governments more willing to push back against perceivedly U.S. aims and entities.

    For some historical perspective on how the DoC presents itself to the world, it's worth reviewing some prior incarnations of its site at the Internet Archive.

     
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  • Also by tbyfield
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    This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
    DoC to reorganize technology section | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 3 comments | Search Discussion
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    Defeat for Victory?
    by michael (froomkin@lawUNSPAM.tm) on Sunday February 16 2003, @03:08PM (#11164)
    User #4 Info | http://www.discourse.net/
    It seems to me that the key thing here is that Nancy Victory will have a new boss -- Under Secretary Phil Bond [doc.gov] of the Technology Administration [doc.gov] -- a man with connections to Vice President Cheney.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Re:-1, Illogical?
    by tbyfield (reversethis-{moc.xinap} {ta} {dleifybt}) on Friday February 14 2003, @07:52PM (#11159)
    User #44 Info
    yes. aside from very occasional eruptions about how proposed TLD candidates like '.per' '.ind' might conflict with 3-letter ISO codes for peru and india, the vast majority of ICANN's actions have treated the world saul steinberg-style, as though it were a suburb of marina del rey. left to its own devices, ICANN will continue to seek to entrench its position by kowtowing to proximate powers (e.g., IPR lobbies) while dismissing the needs and interests of those from whom it has less to gain (e.g., developing countries). that may have been a necessary course of action initially, when ICANN was trying to get its sea legs, as it were; but its continued failure to pursue a more power-neutral (hence egalitarian) 'coordination' program has built up deep mistrust around the world. one need only weigh, on the one hand, the pindling list of ccTLDs it has signed agreements with, and, on the other, the recent concern about the renewal of the IANA contract to see that there is a substantical school of thought which holds that the IANA function can and should be performed on a much more neutral basis. it would be fairly simple to separate IANA from ICANN; but that criticism also applies to ICANN as a whole. if the DoC were to rein in ICANN so that its 'performance' and 'results' were much more strictly limited to technical coordination issues, ICANN's activities would be less aggravating on the international level -- and less likely to be perceived as a peculiarly 'american' combination of belligerence and incompetence.

    cheers,
    t
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
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