Words from the IAB Chair

By: Olaf Kolkman

Date: February 7, 2009

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The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) has a number of responsibilities, one of which is to maintain the relationships between the IETF and external organizations. RFC 2850 describes the process in the following manner:
The IAB acts as representative of the interests of the IETF and the Internet Society in technical liaison relationships with other organizations concerned with standards and other technical and organizational issues relevant to the world-wide Internet.”

Not completely coincidentally, these are the same words I used when I opened this column in the October 2007 issue of the IETF Journal. I was recently reminded of that role when Sha Zukan, undersecretary of the United Nations, invited the IETF and the IAB, through the Internet Society (ISOC), to provide an annual performance report on the steps the organization has taken toward “enhanced cooperation” on public policy issues pertaining to the Internet (PDF).

Olaf Kolkman
Olaf Kolkman

Enhanced cooperation is a term that was coined during the 2005 World Summit on the Information Society. It is a fairly political term that can be seen as an attempt to shift the focus from control over the Internet to discussions about the roles of policy makers, governments, and other stakeholders. It is clear that the IETF has a role in promoting enhanced cooperation, particularly since we are one of the stakeholders in what is commonly referred to as the Internet’s multistakeholder model. The IAB cooperates with ISOC to explain, clarify, and improve that model; in other words, multiple stakeholders cooperate to take their responsibility in managing and maintaining their part of the Internet’s technical and policy environment. The stakeholders involved include various SDOs (standards-development organizations), such as the IETF, as well as the RIRs (Regional Internet Registries), ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), user communities, and governmental and intergovernmental organizations.

With the multistakeholder model in mind, the IAB report (PDF) highlighted the open and international nature of the IETF and its relationship to other organizations. It emphasized our commitment to the open development and evolution of the Internet protocol suite, and it underscores ISOC’s vision of an Internet that benefits all people throughout the world.

The role of the IETF within the multistakeholder model is a serious one. It takes real effort to participate responsibly in the various initiatives that are related to the multistakeholder process. Fortunately, ISOC is assisting us by handling the public policy and governance issues that concern the IETF. They do so by tracking developments, such as those within the Internet Governance Forum, and by flagging issues on which the IAB needs to take action on behalf of the IETF.

That process allows us to focus on technical issues, such as assumptions about the evolution of the IP model, one of the IAB’s technical work items, on which, I think it is fair to say, we had a successful technical plenary at this past meeting.