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2020’s New Internet Success – Rejoinder

The posting with a similar name seems a bit contrived by anonymous in some strange attempt to enhance its significance. Many others, including myself, have been discussing this subject for some time. Indeed, a concerted lobbying effort and anti-competitive efforts by legacy TCP/IP internet stakeholders have been really ramped up over the past year to mischaracterize what is occurring. One common feature seems to be indirectly promoting Washington’s racist/xenophobic mantras about China. Some of the article’s observations are obvious, if not interesting. A few others are just factually wrong. As a result, the article has the look and feel of fake news even if it does raise some good points. In any case, it is worthy of rejoinders.

Historically, it was France that developed the first internet protocol—which was subsequently picked up by the U.S. who made it part of its national standards and introduced the specifications into ITU-T and ISO as internet CLNP—which remain in effect today. CLNP was a better protocol, but alas, was killed off when the U.S. politics changed. What became promoted as TCP/IP was a skunkworks competing protocol developed within DARPA within academic communities that has fundamental flaws and has outlived its life.

As Karl Auerbach notes, there have been and remain many competing internet protocols. The most compelling ones with the greatest industry support are moving forward within 3GPP and the MEF Forum. Starlink is rolling another competitor out for its satellite system. Getting traction on any of them in a global marketplace is the non-trivial challenge.

The really strange part of the article is the “place and timing” section. The ITU-T, with its many groups, is only one of a constellation of venues to float new protocol ideas. What has been presented recently and attributed to “China” is not significantly different than what has been done many times before. Internet pioneer Larry Roberts did something very similar in the ITU-T 14 years ago with some significant buy-in from UK and Asian companies. There simply is no “place and timing.” The 2024 date “certain features” stuff is plainly conjecture. The principal venues for new network and transport protocols and services are clearly other venues like 3GPP, ETSI, and the MEF Forum.

The “many benefits” section seems rather sensationalized in a way that enhances xenophobic stereotypes and paranoia. Trusted knowledge of endpoints was a key feature of the U.S. CLNP specifications. The “growing consensus” also seems completely bogus. No one would ever accuse Washington of being “unconcerned,” or “taking less interest in Internet Governance.” The problem is that Washington is still living in a mythical world of Internet Governance which it created 20 years ago—which is deserving of a J.K. Rowling novel or maybe a computer game.

The “give it time” concluding section does, however, impart a useful admonition—to enable “benefits of competition in matters of Internet protocols and to allow them to flourish.” NFV based 5G/F5G enables on-demand instantiation of any architectures and services using whatever transport and network protocols anyone wants to order, create or can sell. MEF 3.0 seems the most attractive. There will be enormous numbers of providers offering these capabilities, not just China.

It is also edifying to note the increasing scholarly research that points out how some things don’t change, and that the U.S.–China conflict over markets being played out in standards bodies and political posturing is oddly similar to a German and UK rivalry 120 years ago.

By Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC

The author is a leader in many international cybersecurity bodies developing global standards and legal norms over many years.

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