Much of the criticism of ICANN
reflects lack of awareness with international and national
standards, pricing and other coordination bodies established
over the past 150 years to deal with 'new media'.
This page highlights some of those bodies.
It covers -
international and other standards organisations
A perspective on ICANN as the "invisible government
of the world" is provided by the history of international
standards and traffic management bodies.
There is an intelligent introduction in Constructing
World Culture: International NonGovernmental Organizations
Since 1875 (Stanford: Stanford Uni Press 1999), a
collection of essays edited by John Boli, in Autonomous
Policy-Making By International Organisations (London:
Routledge 1999) edited by Bob Reinalda, The Standards
Edge: Future Generations (Ann Arbor: Bolin 2005)
edited by Sherrie Bolin, Craig Murphy's International
Organization & Industrial Change: Global Governance
since 1850 (Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 1994), Samuel
Krislov's How Nations Choose Product Standards and
Standards Change Nations (Pittsburgh: Uni of Pittsburgh
Press 1967) and in the 2006 'From Setting National Standards
to Coordinating International Standards: The Formation
of the ISO' (PDF)
by JoAnne Yates & Craig Murphy.
Another perspective is offered by Standards Policy
for Information Infrastructure (Cambridge: MIT Press
1995) edited by Janet Abbate & Brian Kahin as part
of the excellent Harvard Information Infrastructure Project
and by Governing Global Networks: International Regimes
for Transportation and Communications (Cambridge:
Cambridge Uni Press 1996) by Mark Zacher & Brent Sutton.
Recognition from the 1850s onwards of benefits for businesses,
consumers and governments from adoption of infrastructure
and other standards saw the emergence of a range of national
and sectoral standard-setting and compliance-monitoring
Those bodies were often based in the private sector but
recognised in national legislation, underpinning moves
for broader coordination through international umbrella
bodies, industry agreements and regional/global agreements
endorsed by governments.
One point of entry for mapping such agreements and bodies
is the International Organization for Standardization
the Geneva-based entity. It traces its origins to the
International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)
founded in 1906 and the International Federation of the
National Standardizing Associations (ISA), concerned with
mechanical engineering and active from 1926 to 1942.
The ISO provides a forum for complementary (and competing)
national and sectoral bodies - of varying credibility
- such as ETSI, NISO, the Codex Alimentarius Commission
Association of National Numbering Agencies (ANNA),
International Bureau of Weights & Measures (BIPM),
Union of Potato Starch Factories of the European Union,
International Union of Technical Associations & Organizations
(UATI), Universala Esperanto-Asocio and the Federation
of the European Rigid Polyurethane Foam Associations (BING).
Commercial interest, specialisation and institutional
inertia means that the number of organisations has increased
rather than shrunk. In mapping communication bodies the
observer thus encounters national umbrella organisations
such as Standards Australia (SAA) and regional bodies
such as ETSI.
The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI)
a non-profit making organization whose mission is to
produce the telecommunications standards that will be
used for decades to come throughout Europe and beyond.
have highlighted other standards organisations in the
Networks & GII guide elsewhere
on this site.
Originally founded in the 19th century, the International
Telecommunication Union (ITU)
works to create uniformity in global telecom operations.
Gerd Wallenstein's Setting Global Telecommunications
Standards (Norwood: Artech 1990) is one view of the
process. The ITU In A Changing World (Boston:
Artech 1988) by George Codding & Anthony Rutkowski
explores pre-web challenges.
The ITU is discussed in more
detail elsewhere on this site.
The Universal Postal Union (UPU)
- an agency of the United Nations since 1948 - dates from
an international conference in Berne, Switzerland during
1874. It serves as a forum for cooperation between national
postal services, setting
rules for international mail exchanges and providing advice
about national policy and services.
In 1840 Rowland Hill introduced prepaid postage and a
uniform rate for letters in the UK, providing a model
adopted by other countries. Carriage of mail across borders
was, however, contentious. An 1863 conference in Paris
of national postal authorities, under the auspices of
the United States, established general principles for
mutual agreements between 15 nations.
The 1874 conference, convened by the Swiss government
but largely driven by the government of Germany's Second
Reich, involved 22 nations and resulted in the Treaty
of Berne which unified "a confusing international
maze of postal services and regulations into a single
postal territory for the reciprocal exchange of letters."
That treaty established the General Postal Union, renamed
the Universal Postal Union in 1878. It now has 189 member
countries. The major study is George Codding's The
Universal Postal Union: Coordinator of the International
Mails (New York: New York Uni Press 1964).
The UPU And postal regimes are discussed in more detail
elsewhere on this site.
IMO and ISA
As suggested earlier
in this profile, formal global rules and acceptance of
commercial/professional norms for the maritime industry
are significant given the 'statelessness' of the high
seas, the desirability of equal regulatory costs for industry
players and a regime that addresses concerns regarding
the desirability of free passage and responsibility for
The International Maritime Organization (IMO)
is concerned with conventions regarding of prevention
damage to ships and their cargo (animate or otherwise),
the minimisation of pollution and compensation for damages.
Examples are the International Convention for the
Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International
Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships
International control of ship-generated pollution by the
IMO dates from the 1950s, with effective control from
the 1973 Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from
Ships that established international construction and
equipment standards and minimises excuses for states to
delay vessels in ports.
Control of dumping of wastes at sea dates from the 1972
London Dumping Convention, which reflected disquiet about
disposal of hazardous wastes off the shores of other states.
UN agencies have enunciated general principles against
the discharge of wastes from land into the oceans, although
serious action has essentially been confined to regional
settings in Europe, North America and parts of Australia.
For perspectives see Bruce Farthing's International
Shipping: An Introduction to the Policies, Politics &
Institutions of the Maritime World (London: Lloyd's
1987), A.W. Cafruny's Ruling the Waves: The Political
Economy of International Shipping, 1945-85 (Berkeley:
Uni of California Press 1987) and Pollution, Politics
& International Law: Tankers at Sea (Berkeley:
Uni of California Press 1979) by Michael M'Gonigle &
The International Seabed Authority (ISA)
is an autonomous international organization established
under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of
the Sea and in effect from 1994. It seeks to "organize
and control activities in the regime for the seabed and
ocean floor and subsoil beyond the limits of national
waters". The US has not ratified the Law of the Sea
Convention and is thus not a member of the Authority.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
prescribes air transport jurisdictional and technical
norms and rules. The early history of aviation technology
meant that the right of overflight over national territories
became an issue before there were major questions about
freedom of flight over the world's oceans.
Technical rules facilitating international air transport
are included in annexes to the ICAO Convention. Some technical
issues (notably coordination of flights involving different
airlines and facilitation of traffic in airports) are
handled by the International Association of Transport
Airlines (IATA), a NGO that is the sponsor of the dot-aero
Perspectives are provided by Christer Jonsson's International
Aviation and the Politics of Regime Change (New York:
St Martins 1987).
the ICC and transnational river commissions
Those fond of the 'railway' metaphor have pointed to the
history of the US Interstate Commerce Commission (initially
established to regulate railroad companies) and to the
UK Railway Clearing House as models for thinking about
As we noted earlier in this profile, the two standard
ICC studies are A History of the ICC: From Panacea
to Palliative (New York: Norton 1976) by Ari &
Olive Hoogenboom and The Interstate Commerce Commission
and the Railroad Industry: A History of Regulatory Policy
(New York: Praeger 1991) by Richard Stone. They are complemented
by Paul MacAvoy's The Economic Effects of Regulation:
The Trunk Line Cartels and the Interstate Commerce Commission
before 1900 (Cambridge: MIT Press 1965). For the
Railway Clearing House see Martin Campbell-Kelly's 'The
Railway Clearing House and Victorian Data Processing'
in Information Acumen. The Understanding & Use
of Knowledge in modern Business (London: Routledge
1994) and The Railway Clearing House in the British
economy 1842-1922 (London: Allen & Unwin 1968)
by Philip Bagwell.
From a European perspective two more persuasive models
may be the commissions concerned with pre-industrial information
highways - the major rivers - that cut across national
borders and cultures.
Examples are the Danube Commission (DC)
and the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine
Salient discussions are Watercourse Co-operation in
Northern Europe - A Model for the Future (Cambridge:
Cambridge Uni Press 2004) by Malgosia Fitzmaurice &
Olufemi Elias and International Institutional Law:
Unity Within Diversity (Leiden: Brill Academic 2003)
by Henry Schermers & Niels Blokker.