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Re: NSF and the Birth of the Internet
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Tue, 19 Aug 2008 07:01:42 -0400

Begin forwarded message:

From: Jim Thompson <jim () netgate com>
Date: August 18, 2008 11:04:26 PM EDT
To: dave () farber net
Cc: dewayne () warpspeed com (Dewayne Hendricks), Steve Goldstein <steve.goldstein () cox net >
Subject: Re: [IP] Re:    NSF and the Birth of the Internet

And, the domain name registration was originally run under DARPA (or was it ARPA then?) supervision (contracting?) and not by NSF.

DDN-NIC @ SRI at first (HOSTS.TXT) under ARPA, then later SRI managed the first root servers, after ISI @ USC developed the early protocols of DNS. (Dr. Jon Postel had moved to ISI, and taken the responsibility for maintaining "Assigned numbers" with him.) Paul Mockapetris @ ISI developed first implementation of the Domain Name System, called JEEVES. A later implementation named BIND, which was written for Berkeley's 4.3 BSD Unix operating system under a DARPA grant by Kevin Dunlap rose to prominence. BIND was subsequently maintained by Paul Vixie and others at DEC. BIND is now maintained by Paul Vixie (and others) via the Internet Software Consortium.

NSF took it over after DARPA decided that the Internet had grown to the point that it was beyond their remit to handle. And, then we handed it over to the Department of Commerce, which led, eventually, to the formation of ICANN to coordinate globally (disclosure: I am now about halfway through my three-year term on the ICANN Board).

I think thats a bit revisionist. DSA/DISA let the original contract that was the "beginning of the end" for the DNS.

The Defense Communications Agency (DCA), now called the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) let the contracts for SRI, ISI, DEC above. DCA became DISA on June 25, 1991.

In 1991, DISA awarded a small contract that specified the terms under which a new third party to take over the administration and maintenance of DDN-NIC, which had, until this point, been under the management of SRI. A defense contractor, Government Systems, Inc. was awarded the bid in May. By late September, GSI had assumed operational responsibility for DDN-NIC. The actual transition occurred October 1, 1991 (rfc1261) GSI/NSI would carry out this function until Jan. 1, 1993.

Although the official record indicates that the contract was fulfilled by GSI internally, GSI actually outsourced it to a small private- sector contractor, Network Solutions Inc. In 1992, NSF solicited competitive proposals to provide a variety of infrastructure services (under the name "InterNIC"), including domain name registration services.

In 1993, NSF entered into a cooperative agreement with three companies to provides services:

• Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI) which would provide domain name registration services.
        • General Atomics for Information Services.
        • AT&T for directory and database services.

NSF acted pursuant to the High Performance Computing Act of 1991 (Thank you Al Gore...) and the Scientific and Advanced Technology Act of 1992.

Later, General Atomics was dropped after a contract review found their services not being up to the standards of its contract. General Atomics InterNIC functions were assumed by AT&T. AT&T discontinued their InterNIC services after their contract ran out.

This left NSI as "last man standing".

In 1995, NSF gave Network Solutions authority to charge for domain name registrations; Network Solutions announced that domain name registrations would cost $50 per year. This resulted in considerable backlash, which eventually opened the DNS, but you cold only buy a two year period. Under this relationship, 30% of revenue would go to NSF.

The 1993 contract called for NSI to operate on a "cost-plus-fee"basis, meaning that NSI received reimbursement for its costs, plus a fixed fee that ensured the company's profit. Under the original contract, the costs and fees were paid by NSF out of its operating budget; users did not have to pay fees to register or to maintain domain names. The contract estimated that, over the five year life of the agreement, NSI would receive $4,854,061 in cost reimbursement and $365,278 in fixed fee profit.

The situation with NSI might be contrasted with the relationship NSF had with ANS for NSFNET services. NSF used its cooperative agreements with MERIT/ANS in order to contract out the function of administering the NSFNET. Like the arrangement with NSI, NSF was using government funds to set up one private company to offer Internet services, without having significant contractual control over how those services were administered. Unlike an actual government contract, the assets created pursuant to a cooperative agreement were the property of the private company with no further government recourse. This put NSF in the position of funding one company's R&D and hand picking the first mover in a market.

While the situation with ANS was surpassed by CIX and private commercial networks; the situation with NSI and DNS however took a great deal more effort to unwinding, causing a lot more consternation and aggressive behavior.

By May of 1996, Dr. Postel had proposed the creation of multiple, exclusive, competing top-level domain name registries. This proposal called for the introduction of up to 50 new competing domain name registries, each with the exclusive right to register names in up to three new top-level domains, for a total of 150 new TLDs. While some supported the proposal, the also plan drew a lot criticism from the Internet technical community. The paper was revised and reissued. The Internet Society's (ISOC) board of trustees endorsed, in principle, the slightly revised but substantively similar version of the draft in June of 1996. After considerable debate and redrafting failed to produce a consensus on DNS change - and in response to multiple pressures including the high registration fees NetSol was charging, the desire to open the business up to competition, and the concern over both trademarks and free speech - IANA and the Internet Society (ISOC) organized the International Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC or the Ad Hoc Committee) in September 1996, to resolve DNS management issues. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) participated in the IAHC. The Federal Networking Council (FNC) participated in the early deliberations of the Ad Hoc Committee.

The IAHC issued a draft plan in December 1996 The final report proposed MOU that would have established, initially, seven new gTLDs to be operated on a nonexclusive basis by a consortium of new private domain name registrars called the Council of Registrars (CORE). Policy oversight would have been undertaken in a separate council called the Policy Oversight Committee (POC) with seats allocated to specified stakeholder groups. Further, the plan formally introduced mechanisms for resolving trademark/domain name disputes. Under the MOU, registrants for second-level domains would have been required to submit to mediation and arbitration, facilitated by WIPO, in the event of conflict with trademark holders.

NSI was acquired by SAIC in 1997.

In November 1997, the DDN NIC took over the responsibility of assigning IP Numbers and names from ISI and Jon Postel.

In December of 1997 ARIN was established.

On January 28, 1998 Jon Postel redirected the DNS Root from NetSol to IANA, but was later told by Ira Magaziner to cease.

On June 5, 1998, NTIA released a white paper stating DNS policy.

On June 30, 1998, NTIA released the "green paper" proposing

On Oct 2, 1998, ICAN filed a proposal with NTIA to take over management of assigned names.

On October 16, 1998, Jon Postel passed away.

On November 25, 1998 NTIA entered into a MOU with ICANN, and before the end of 1998, ICANN had contracted with ISI/IANA.

And then there was the small matter of Thomas' lawsuit. Thomas decided that the fees that NSI (and NSF) were charging for domain names just wasn't right - so he sued. In 1998, the Court concluded that the 30% NSI was collecting and pocketing into the "Intellectual Infrastructure Fund" was an unconstitutional tax. Domain name registration fees were dropped to $70/year.

The rest is fairly recent history.


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