Net Infrastructure Debate Set
A team of experts from the worlds of policy, administration and academia will
convene at Harvard University next month to debate the future of the
The Information Infrastructure Project, the International Telecommunications
Union, the Commercial Internet Exchange Association and the Internet Society
will host the workshop from Sept. 8-10, which will discuss the future of some
functions that are still funded by the U.S. government.
Jim Keller, associate director with the Infrastructure Project says the group
will discuss the transition of some administrative functions that are
subsidized by the National Science Foundation to some kind of self-sustaining
model at the national level.
The NSF plans to phase out support for some core administrative services and
international Internet connections. Much of the Internet is privatized but
functions like domain name registry, network number assignment and the routing
arbiter are government supported. All of these functions were originally put
in place to support a small research community.
"Now that the market has evolved beyond anyone's expectations, the NSF feels
these issues can no longer be independent, and no longer should be their
role,'' Keller says.
The Internet today runs by fiat, a relic of a time when it was a government
research project, not a society-wide infrastructure as it is viewed today.
"There are some hard decisions coming up,'' says Carl Malamud, a member of
MIT's Media Laboratory, Cambridge, Mass.
Malamud compares the process of building a national Internet infrastructure
to paving the country's interstate highways or creating the waterway system
with dams and connections to electrical providers. All started out to be
tremendous national projects, and as they evolved and grew they eventually
became the purview of local governments.
"This all touches our daily lives,'' he says. "But just getting there was the
The NSF developed the original Internet infrastructure and now there is a
healthy backbone with national backbone providers in place. Today's situation
is of a similar magnitude.
"The future of name spaces and addresses is just as important as the backbone
was,'' Malamud says.
On April 1995, the NSF declared that two projects, network access points -
which pass messages from one network to another - and the routing arbiter,
which finds a path to each destination, can now transition from NSFnet to the
The September workshop will spawn various white papers and in a book
commissioned by the NSF that will be published by the MIT Press. Conference
speakers will include FCC members, representatives from several major
carriers, including AT&T and MCI, and various universities.