The VCXC - Voice Communication Exchange Committee - is a Washington, DC based startup nonprofit, modeled on the Advisory Committee on Advanced Television Service.
Framework for a New American Communication Policy by Daniel Berninger
The transition to all-IP networks as infrastructure for communication and information technology (ICT) represents a victory for borderless bottom-up multi-stakeholder governance. A majority of the 160 countries voting on changes to a 1988 ITU treaty at the World Conference of International Telecommunications (WCIT) in December look likely to veto this outcome in favor of border respecting top down government regulation. The controversy arises because the policy regimes associated with the "I" and "C" in ICT remain separate and incompatible nearly two decades after IP voice made a transition to all-IP networks possible.
American policy makers continue to resist calls for imposing telecom regulation on information technology even as Voice over IP erases the basis for distinctions between information and communication technologies presumed in The Communication Act of 1934 and its revisions. China, Russia, Iran and most of the developing world hope the UN telecom agency can help assert new state control over information flows and restore control over communication. A framework for a new American communication policy recognizing a right of self determination in governance of IP networks would end the debate in favor of borderlessness by aligning the world's largest economy with 2 billion users of the Internet. This window of opportunity to prevent a declaration of war closes at WCIT in December.
Associating the principle of self determination with IP networks represents the only means to preserve the benefits of the Internet as a single global digital economy and need not trigger an existential crisis for nations states. America does not need to assert a right to govern Mexico just because American citizens travel to Mexico. Navigation of waterways and oceans as well as the exploration of space already require exceptions to territory as the basis of sovereignty. The exception for IP networks arises from the desire to add communication to territory as a source for the human cohesion necessary for governance. The priority accorded territory, starting with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, arose as a solution to the problems caused by relying on religion as the sole basis for governance. Applying the principle of self determination in governance of IP networks can help address problems plaguing territory governance.
The history of America offers a cautionary tale about the wisdom of attempts to deny self determination in favor of dividing the treasures of the New World between existing powers. The status of England as the greatest ever military power failed to prevent 3 million colonists in America from winning self determination en route to a 100 fold expansion of population, economic scale, and military power. John Perry Barlow captured this sentiment in A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace in 1996 at a time the Internet consisted of a mere 30 million early adopters. The technology and social forces expanding the population of the Internet to 2 billion today seem unlikely to pause given the universal human needs and aspirations of a global population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050.
The ever expanding functionality of IP networks and compute capacity associated with the billion-billion increase in transistor density Moore's Law predicts by end of the 21st century promises a day when the interaction options of any two people on Earth exceed the options available to next door neighbors today. Frictionless communication will prove essential to addressing the global scale financial and environmental threats facing humanity. An embrace of borderlessness contains unknown risks, but the known risks of defending borders cost 250 million lives in the last century. The founders of a new American communication policy might even adopt the definition of success motivating the founding fathers of America.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain....
Borderlessness least suits the modes of governance pursued by countries American military and economic strategists worry about the most. Declining to join China in a fight against the IP network juggernaut alters the conditions making China the favorite as #1 global economic power by 2025. The necessity of a principle of self determination for IP networks exists for the same reason as the checklist of principles in the United States Bill of Rights. The possiblity of communication as both means and antidote for the abuse of power inevitably creates a struggle over control. America cannot dictate policy beyond its borders, but America can model a coherent information and communication technology policy.
Reed Hundt initiated the policy resisting regulation of the Internet during his tenure as Chairman of the FCC when VocalTec's introduction of Internet Phone in February 1995 triggered calls to regulate software. This policy already reflects a tentative conclusion in favor of self determination in the governance of IP networks. Experience accumulated over the last 17 years provides a sufficient record to make this conclusion permanent. American communication policy makers do not risk a penalty of death like the signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. They do not need the conviction and boldness Reed Hundt demonstrated in 1995. The prospect of an American policy changing the course of humanity this time around requires merely recognizing the risks of delay exceed the risks of action as of WCIT in December 2012.
The First World of Quintillion Abundance by Daniel Berninger
The inexorable forces driving Moore's Law promise a quintillion (a billion-billion) increase in transistor density by the end of the 21st century. The IP Transition as Grand Challenge workshop in Washington, DC on June 15, 2012 kicked-off an effort harnessing this quintillion abundance to reinvent telecom. The implications for humanity in the all-IP network grand challenge may surpass the grand challenge putting a man on the moon. The specific effects of quintillion abundance remain unknown, but cyberspace already looks more likely to influence course of humanity than outer space.
The coming expansion of capacity in both computing and connectivity promise to reset the sources for first world status that created the Cold War. Quintillion abundance makes computing devices mediators of human interaction and the lens for experiencing the world. The Cold War arose from competing theories of nation state governance. Membership in the new first world turns on Internet governance. Quintillion abundance leaves the new first world unbound by place of birth. It moves communication to the center of the human experience. Prosperity reflects differences in access to communication rather than the zero sum scarcity associated with natural resources.
Changes in communication and military technology always reshape the rules of engagement underlying society. The creation the nation state traces to a period when it took a month or more for a letter from London to reach Philadelphia and three days from Boston. The Cold War arose from efforts to cope with the invention of nuclear weapons. Quintillion abundance represents the communication equivalent of nuclear weapons. The emergence of Internet governance bottom-up via multi-stakeholder solutions represent the new way forward. The governance questions always emerge as a grand challenge in moments of transformation, because the power elite and even many of the suffering citizens resist changes to the status quo.
The mix of old and new forces during the transition makes navigation difficult without a clear vision of the future. Borders reflect a failure of governance agreements between people and obstacles to trust in a borderlessness environment. Membership of the new first world requires embracing connectivity over disconnectivity. Quintillion abundance expands the options for a global population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050. A world made borderless by increasingly powerful communication tools contains risks, but the wars arising from defense or expansion of borders cost 250 million lives in the last century.
The governance obstacles loom large as traditional institutions seem hopeless out of synch with the pace of change. The urgent task of facilitating borderlessness already looks problematic for the command and control models applied in the developing world. Economic stagnation and financial market rescues nonetheless discredit policy solutions and assertions from the developed world. The fictions asserted as distinctions between Internet and telecom policy in the US become unsustainable in all-IP networks. The way forward requires a fresh start and accountability for improving outcomes. Any country defining success as preserving the status quo dooms itself to third world status.
Economic outcomes separate winners and losers navigating borderlessness and resolute sovereignty as they did in the case of the Cold War. The consent of the governed traces to the same criteria in all countries. Araham Maslow summarized these as survival, safety, social, success, and spiritual issues in his Hierarchy of Needs. The grand challenge imperative for all-IP networks in developing cyberspace reflects the otherwise problematic prognosis for quality of life on spaceship earth. It provides a means to give future generations a legacy of more than war, debt, and depleted natural resources.
New Grotius Doctrine in Governance of IP Networks by Daniel Berninger
Recognizing the limits of territorial governance represents a necessary step in obtaining the benefits of an all-IP network future. The perfection of the means for human communication through IP networks opens a new realm of governance in the jurisdiction of humanity. Hugo Grotius made a similar assertion in the "Freedom of the Seas" in 1609 in response to Spain's claim of sovereignty over the Pacific Ocean. The Grotius Doctrine remains the principal countervailing force preventing the partitioning of the worlds oceans by nation states 400 years later. The imperative of preserving the possibility of travel and trade between nations reflects the same self evident benefit to humanity as frictionless communication.
The war between champions of Internet governance and telecom regulation owes to the tension identified by Grotius. The accumulation of telecom regulations during the 20th century reflects a presumption granting nation states sole jurisdiction. The multi-stakeholder model governing the Internet reflects solutions assembled by the network's users to governance questions arising from expanding functionality. Internet governance reflects the presumption of a Grotius like view about the benefits of maximizing communication options without regard to geography. Telecom and Internet become indistinguishable in the context of all-IP networks, so the two models of governance need to become one.
A new Grotius Doctrine in governance of IP networks reflects the preferences of end users as expressed in John Perry Barlow's Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, the principles identified by the Aspen Institute International Digital Accords Project, and the recent Declaration of Internet Freedom by civil society groups. The desire of nation states to assert rights to any and all adjacent natural resources and commerce expresses itself in the context of limitations countries assert on the uses of the Internet. The ITU plans a vote at WCIT in December on changes to a treaty bringing Internet governance within the jurisdiction of the UN agency.
"Nobody could nor should forget that these governments are the only legitimate representatives of the will of the people in our democracies. To forget this is to take the risk of democratic chaos and hence anarchy." Nicolas Sarkozy, President France, at eG8 Summit in Paris, France May 2011
Communication seems unlikely to make the world borderless to the extent it remains the sole discretion of a governance model responsible for defending borders. The governance debate reflects a recognition trends point to Internet and IP networks entirely replacing traditional telecom networks by the end of the decade. The outcome of the debate determines whether the victory of bottom-up borderless multi-stakeholder governance stands. There exist limits to the analogy between the governance of communication and the Law of the Sea, but the controversies reflect the precise tension Grotius identifies between the needs of humanity and nation states.
Controversies due to the influence of nation state power politics over the Law of the Sea remain after 400 years, but no one disputes the importance of the Grotius Doctrine in preserving many benefits for humanity as a whole. The pace of change associated with IP networks demands resolution of communication governance questions in the next four years, not 400 years. There exists the possibility of a Communication Renaissance to the extent nations states embrace a new Grotius Doctrine in governance of IP networks. Nation states seeking to defend their borders against IP communication invite hardship. Moore's Law predicts a billion-billion increase in compute capacity and communication functionality by the end of the century.
Internet Governance: Coin of the New Realm by Daniel Berninger
The Aspen Institute released the IDEA Common Statement and Principles as a do no harm Hippocratic Oath for Internet governance. The Aspen report describes the present moment as an inflection point for "the most robust medium of information exchange in history". Reed Hundt outlined the risks associated with Internet governance changes favored by China and a group of developing nations through the ITU. Michael Joseph Gross frames this same ITU dispute as World War 3.0 in the May 2012 issue of Vanity Fair. The collision between the borderless Internet and national borders may prove World War 3.0 a literal description of the forces in play. The Aspen report argues governance represents the coin of this new realm.
A world where the availability of connectivity shapes prosperity does not follow the same contours and constraints as the present Haves and Have-Nots economic pyramid. This makes Aspen's do no harm principles problematic for those benefiting from the economic status quo. The frictionless nature of the Internet creates an existential threat to the relevance of borders and by extension the wealth of gatekeepers. The enormous stakes promise a Darwinian survival of the fittest battle between champions of connectivity and disconnectivity splitting the world between these doctrines. The resulting stalemate may prove unresolvable until one side or the other wins economic hegemony as in the case of the Cold War.
The cost of moving a bit (1 or 0) from A to B or average-bit-cost (ABC) benefits from the same Moore's Law of transistor density driving processing power, memory, storage, and even megapixels. In 1980, AT&T charged $0.43 per minute for a "long distance" connection between 300 baud modems connecting computers in Los Angeles and New York. The present reflects the benefits of the 100 fold per decade reduction in ABC enabled by Moore's Law. The assault on physical borders will continue to escalate with another 10,000 fold ABC reduction due by 2040. The profound nature of the conflict reflects the fact coercion and communication anchor two ends of the human interaction spectrum.
Borders will remain important everywhere there exists a threat of coercion, but borders represent mere means to the end of prosperity. The motivations listed in the preamble of the US Constitution "... establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare,..." represent universal aspirations. The Internet governance debates provide an opportunity to test connectivity as a more potent source of prosperity than the delegation of power to the gatekeepers of national borders. The momentum presently favors the new Internet majority living in the developing world as well as China, Russia, India, and Brazil. The Internet freedom champions in America and Europe devolved into financial turmoil during the same period over the last decade China cut the GDP gap with the US from 8:1 to 2:1.
Internet partisans can point to the military cost of sustaining borders, abuses of power by gatekeepers, and uneven access to the resulting benefits. It nonetheless remains an open question how many of the 2 billion people already connected will step up to defend the benefits of the Internet. Threats to the Internet include both excessive and insufficient regulation. History shows borderless anarchy yields a downward spiral into horror conceding the landscape to strongman governance. The promise of the Internet as an engine of innovation seems unlikely to survive the interventionist regulatory model associated telephone networks championed by the ITU.
Internet governance decisions may reorder the world order as much as the world wars in the last century. Expanding connectivity creates wealth for the same reasons as borders by facilitating cooperation in pursuit of a common goal. The extent of cooperation reflects the extent communication tools replicate the experience of connecting in-person. Continuous improvement promises to make communication tools entirely substitutable for meeting in-person over time, but this does not preclude a painful transition. The 250 million lives lost to border disputes in the last century makes defending the promise of the Internet an urgent matter for this century.
Transition global telecom industry to all-IP networks and upgrade the universal core voice service to HD voice by June 15, 2018.