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Plenary Session Keynote Speech by Acting Assistant Secretary Baker at the French-EU Presidency Conference: Internet of Things - Internet of the Future

October 07, 2008

Challenges of International Cooperation
Plenary Session Keynote Speech of NTIA Acting Assistant Secretary Meredith Attwell Baker
(As prepared)

October 7, 2008


Thank you, and good morning.  I am honored to be here today and to participate in this important conference on the “Internet of Things-Internet of the Future.”  Let me thank the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research, the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Employment, the Secretary of State for the Development of the Digital Economy, and the European Commission for organizing this conference and inviting me to speak on the subject of the “Challenges of International Cooperation”.  This is a particularly relevant theme as one of the main drivers of the success of today’s Internet is in fact the highly distributed nature of the network, enabling institutions and individuals from all corners of the globe to actively participate in its innovation.  Thus, the vary nature of the Internet’s topology demands international cooperation.

Today what I would like to share with you is some of the principles that we have adopted in the United States so as to facilitate the deployment of the Internet and then discuss four key areas that I see with respect to its evolution where international cooperation is needed.

US Guiding Principles to the Internet

In the United States, the advancement of Internet technologies and applications continues to flourish to the benefit of consumers and the broader economy.  High speed Internet is placing personal and economic power into the hand of individuals.  The increased reliance of the health, education and business sectors on the Internet is shrinking geographic, economic and cultural boundaries.  To facilitate these changes and to support growth, we have adopted in the United States the following guiding principles with respect to the Internet:

Promote an enabling environment through effective and efficient competition: To maximize the economic and social benefits of the Internet, a clear, market-based, legal framework and supportive policy environment that promotes and ensures effective and efficient competition is essential.  Full competition is the cornerstone of a healthy, robust Internet market;

Avoid overly prescriptive or burdensome regulation:  The Internet exists in a dynamic, fast-changing environment.  Competitive market forces, rather than prescriptive rules, continue to respond to public needs.  Innovation, expanded services, broader participation, and lower prices will arise most easily in a market-driven arena, not an environment that operates under substantial regulation;

Embrace the global, collaborative and cooperative nature of the network:  The Internet is intrinsically global in nature and national efforts need to be supported by effective regional and international cooperation; and,

Support continued private sector leadership: The private sector is the primary investor in and innovator of Internet infrastructure, products, content, and services.  They are the primary stakeholders who build, operate and maintain the networks that collectively form the Internet and are largely responsible for its commercial success.  Consequently, it is imperative that private sector leadership in the areas be maintained and encouraged and that governments adopt policies that ensure that incentives remain in place to build new Internet capacity.

Security and Stability - DNSSEC

An example of an ongoing challenge in international cooperation in this area is the need for all actors to work together to ensure that today’s Internet as well as the Internet of the future remains stable and secure.  As you all may be aware, a series of announcements were made starting in June of this year related to a long-recognized vulnerability in the Domain Name and Addressing System (DNS), a vulnerability that technological advances in computing power and network transmission speeds have made possible to exploit much more rapidly and effectively than ever before.  What followed these announcements was an unprecedented effort among the technical community to develop and implement patches that would mitigate exploits involving forged data, such as cache poisoning.  Unfortunately, while these patches reduce the effectiveness of an attack, they do not eliminate the possibility of success.  The only long-term solution to this vulnerability is the end-to-end-deployment of a security protocol called DNS Security Extensions – or DNSSEC – which was designed to protect the DNS from such attacks.

The United States remains committed to preserving the security and stability of the Internet DNS and in light of existing and emerging threats, the time is ripe to consider long-term solutions, such as DNSSEC.  As we consider deployment of DNSSEC, particularly at the root zone level, it is critical that all the interested stakeholders have the opportunity to express their views on the matter, as deployment of DNSSEC would represent one of the most significant changes to the DNS infrastructure since its inception.  As such, the US Department of Commerce will issue later this week something we call a Notice of Inquiry, which will seek public input on all aspects of DNSSEC deployment.  We look forward to working with the global Internet community to determine the best way to move ahead and I encourage all of your governments and other stakeholders in your countries to participate in this consultation process.

Decision-making at the Local Level - Automation

As I mentioned previously, the power of the Internet to enable innovation stems from the design of the network whereby institutions and individuals indiscriminately, can develop applications and services at the edges of the network.  The Internet with an almost incalculable number of actors involved in its current design really truly does facilitate and enhance decision-making, be it commercial or political, at the local level.  However, to maintain interoperability, some technical validation at the core of the network is needed.  At the Department of Commerce we are committed to working with the international community to introduce operational efficiencies in these activities while maintaining the security and stability of existing systems.  We believe strongly that automation of some of these essential technical functions will further enhance local decision making and are in fact awaiting a proposal from one of our key partners in this process – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – so that we can move forward.

Scalability and Evolution - Transition to IPv6

Another area where international cooperation is needed is in the transition from IPv4 to IPv6.  Keeping in mind that the Internet started as a small-scale, experimental system of links among U.S. academic institutions and in now a gigantic global network connecting all users from any access point regardless of national or geographic borders, it is not surprising that its original design elements have needed to be expanded.

While there is widespread agreement that the increased address space made available by the adoption of IPv6 will stimulate development and commercialization of new devices and applications, deployment is not without its challenges.  As you may know, the world’s largest IT systems operator, the United States government, has required that all US governments systems move to IPv6.  Just recently the European Commission has released its own plans to spur IPv6 adoption in Europe.   While both of these actions represent a responsive and forward looking approach to the Internet of the future within our own borders, a wide spread transition to IPv6 requires broader international cooperation.

Efficient and Effective Spectrum Use

Yet another challenge that requires international cooperation is in the area of efficient and effective use of the radio frequency spectrum.  As the federal spectrum manager for the U.S. government, I am acutely aware of the importance of being innovative and forward looking with respect to managing a limited and finite resource that is critical to so many of our current communications networks as well as to new and innovative services, including radio frequency identification (RFID).   In this area it is critical that we work together to ensure that spectrum management is transparent, flexible and technology neutral so as enable innovation and competition.


So as we contemplate the future of the Internet, it is imperative that we recommit to the principles that have led to the robust, innovative and highly decentralized Internet that we have today as well as the important cooperative relationship between Europe and the Untied States.  Just a little over a week ago, I was pleased to welcome Director-General Colasanti and colleagues from the Commission’s Information Society and Media Directorate to Washington for our most recent and very productive Information Society Dialogue.  At that time we shared perspectives on upcoming events, discussed issues of mutual interest related to information and communication technology (ICT), including the Internet and agreed on the importance of continuing to work together collaboratively and in fact enhancing that collaboration in order to meet some of the challenges I have just mentioned.  I look forward to that continued collaboration and believe it will be critical to meet our shared objectives regarding the Internet of the future.