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South African Internet Blackout? 29

Posted by timothy
from the sigh dept.
MdeGale writes "A tussle for control of the .za domain has sparked the possibility of a blackout for all .za sites. This article in the Independent online reports that Mike Lawrie -- the administrator of the ".za" domain -- would: 'have no alternative but to pull the plug on millions of email addresses and Internet sites if parliament passed the controversial Electronic Communications and Transactions Bill this week.' There is an excellent breakdown of the background situation at Politech. Basically the SA government wants to regulate the domain (and take over administering it). The Bill -- due to be passed this week -- would make this law, without Lawrie's agreement to the redelegation, as per ICANN practice."
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South African Internet Blackout?

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  • by Chacham (981)
    Heh, I read it as "dotsa" before I realized it was dot za. Sounds cool though.

    Hmm... I guess the news site should go down soon. :-)
  • the large issue... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by digitalmuse (147154) on Monday June 03, 2002 @11:10AM (#3631049)
    I openly admit that I do not fully understand all the issues which Mr. Lawrie is trying to address in his push to ensure that there is a capable, competent, lawful management of the .za TLD going forward. However, I have to ask what kind of response we would see from ICANN... Are we looking at a complete backout of .za? Will this be an across-the-board version of the Usenet Death Penalty or just saber-rattling and name-calling among those involved.
    From what we have seen here, it does appear that the South-African Department of Communication has it's head in it's arse, but as an arm of the government, it may be impossible to prevent them from the heavy-handed actions they appear to have endorsed with the Electronic Communications and Transactions Bill [http].
    Does anyone have any information on what the ICANN (or anyone else for that matter...) is saying/thinking/doing about this? I for one would be very interested in this. how often do you get to watch a pissing match over a TLD... the mind recoils in horror.
    • by jonadab (583620)
      > However, I have to ask what kind of response
      > we would see from ICANN... Are we looking at
      > a complete backout of .za? Will this be an
      > across-the-board version of the Usenet Death
      > Penalty

      Nothing quite so dramatic as that. If ICANN does not approve of the change, the root nameservers simply won't change the way they delegate the .za domain. Remember, in terms of toplevel domains, if ICANN doesn't say that you are the authority, your authority is meaningless. The South African government can set up its new .za domain servers and declare them to be authoritative, and set up as many committees as it wants to manage them, but if the ICANN nameservers delegate .za elsewhere, then every name lookup in the world will look elsewhere for .za domains. In particular, everyone will continue to use the existing servers managed by the current administrator, as long as ICANN continues to delegate to them and they continue to function.

      Therein lies the problem...

      The only serious danger to continued functioning of the internet in South Africa (and this is a very real possibility) would be if the government legally forced the current .za administrator to shut down the existing nameservers. In that case, all name lookups in the .za domain would fail, until he turned them back on or ICANN delegated to a new administrator.

      Probably the people who drafted the legislation believe that they can force ICANN to delegate to their new official servers, but ICANN says they will not delegate to technically incompetent administrators, and there is reason to believe them.

      Note that everything else internet-related in South Africa would continue to work, except for domain name lookups. Anything you can do with just IP addresses would still work. Web servers would still work, but could not be accessed using domain names. (You could use the IP numbers, if you know them.) In a pinch, you could probably even still exchange email, but it would be problematic for non-technical users because there would be no way to determine the correct mail server from a domain-based email address. So you would have to know the IP address of the mail server in question. Et cetera.

  • by cheezus (95036) on Monday June 03, 2002 @11:20AM (#3631139) Homepage
    i want to register piz.za, and then then sell subdomains, so the world would have

    dominos.piz.za

    et al.
  • Go to ZA.NET [za.net] and check out their page.

    If the goverment wants to take control of it, then let them!

    People will just move somewhere else, leaving a dead zone.

    It will be sad to lose my domains:

    e.co.za and tbs.co.za though.

    -sigh-

  • ICANN better get used to situations like this. Putting up an electronic embargo around a domain name should never be an option for ICANN. What are they going to do next, pull China's TLD because of human rights abuse?

    First of, this is a democratically elected government with a formal bill making process, all of which has been followed. It's not ICANN or the readers of /. job to tell another country what formal process to use in administering their TLD. I don't care what RFC exists that dictates this, it means nothing. Honestly, to the people involved in this who are so upset they were not consulted...blah..blah..blah: Get over yourselves.
    This sort of political manuvering happens everyday in large corporations. Threatening to cause a blackout if the bill is passed only proves their point. I also have to say, I find it insane currently this has been done by one unpaid party with no formal/legal binding to the country. What if this Mike Lawerence guy was smacked by a bus? Who's his backup? Who knows what he knows?
    And so they started their own redelgation process, but the DoC Sun Tzu'd them and came at them with the sun behind their back. Who cares, give it to the Gov't. It's theirs anyhow. They'll figure it out. If they spend 12million (whatever currency) on it, you have something to campaign with when you go for the Chairmens job. That's the way it works.

    Stop acting like the dorky network administer who's pissed off his little department LAN has been absorbed by Corp IT, and he's no longer _GOD_.

    -malakai
    • Re:Yea and...??? (Score:2, Informative)

      by skaffen42 (579313)
      You are missing the point here. This is a typical example of uninformed (and hopefully unenforceable) legislation that governments think up when they feel they are losing control of something. Read some of the background information on this case and you will realize how absurd the legislation is. For example you would not be able to change sub-domains to .za domain without government approval. Let's say you owned bar.za and wanted to create a sub domain foo.bar.za. According to the legislation you couldn't do it without approval. In the case of the South African government this is simply a continuation of their complete disregard of how things work in the real world. Read up on their South Africa's interesting policies on Aids (http://www.usatoday.com/news/healthscience/health / ids/2002-05-01-safrica-policy.htm) and you will see what I mean.
      • Read up on their South Africa's interesting policies on Aids

        irrelevant.

        ...example of uninformed (and hopefully unenforceable) legislation that governments...

        According to you, and again, irrelevant.

        For example you would not be able to change sub-domains to .za domain without government approval

        I read their bill, and this wasn't the intent behind the law. What they are looking to do is make Government chartered sub-domains. For example, *.gov.za *.co.za...etc. A Common practice for ccTLDs being we (the US) have a monopoly on TLD Gov.

        In any case, my point still stands. It is their country, and their country code. They are ELECTED representatives. IANA can not start using what power it has to chaste a countries freely elected political part anymore than it can chaste a communistic country use of their CC and the Internet.

        -malakai
    • It's not ICANN or the readers of /. job to tell another country what formal process to use in administering their TLD... Who cares, give it to the Gov't. It's theirs anyhow.

      Is it theirs because they somehow own such TLD? Are they entitled to it? Just because they can make money out of it means they have to regulate it?

      • Is it theirs because they somehow own such TLD? Are they entitled to it? Just because they can make money out of it means they have to regulate it?

        Hello? It's their alpha COUNTRY CODE. Yes, they are entitled to it. It's a computer-age born national symbol. They can do what they want with it, just like they can do what they want with their numeric telephone Country Code.

        -malakai
        • Hello? It's their alpha COUNTRY CODE. Yes, they are entitled to it. It's a computer-age born national symbol. They can do what they want with it, just like they can do what they want with their numeric telephone Country Code.

          Well, now, I always thought that ICANN was the organization in charge of creating TLDs and delegating responsability and management. The South African government may whine all they want and police every Internet conection inside their country if they wish, but the point is that sooner or later they have to connect to the outside world. They don't have any "unalienable rights" to have a connection to the rest of the world, as far as I can remember.

          And it's that kind of connections which is supposed to be regulated by ICANN, in some kind of consensus, through the use of TLDs. So I don't see why the government should get in the way of someone who is working for his country, doing a heck of a good job (from what I can tell) for free, just so they can charge their own citizens for something they (the gov'ment) did not create or implement.

          Maybe I haven't got the ICANN thing quite right yet, but I'm sure as hell against any government messing with something just because they can.
    • Re:Yea and...??? (Score:2, Informative)

      by palfreman (164768)
      You don't know what you are talking about and have obviously never administerd a DNS domain.

      DNS is a distrubuted database lookup service. It doesn't belong to any country and doesn't have any status other than being more conveniant than aaa.bbb.ccc.ddd numbers. Anyone can, and people sometimes do, set a DNS root or a TLD.

      It required the co-operation of other DNS administrators around the world (and not just in a titchy little backwater like South Africa) for the information about what hostname equals what number to be meaningful. It is not some farm on the veld that can be seized by a bunch of rent-seeking criminals - .za is not propertery.

      Just because it looks like it could be grabbed does not actually mean it can be, not least because you have people like me in other countries who just won't accept that kind of abusive behavior - and without our support it is useless to you.

      Start doing things properly of be cut off: a lesson for the whole of Southern Africa IMO.

      • You don't know what you are talking about and have obviously never administerd a DNS domain
        You shouldn't make ASSumptions.
        I'm well versed in the architecture and protocols (both political and computational) of DNS.
        It is not some farm on the veld that can be seized by a bunch of rent-seeking criminals - .za is not propertery
        .za is property. It's a ccTLD, which according to IANA defers to ISO 3166-1 on what constitutes a country and what doesn't.
        You 'rent-seeking criminals' are a freely elected government in a democratic state. IANA and the . root-servers can not get involved when a government wants control over it's ccTLD. If that government coorosponds to the 3166-1 owner of the alpha country code, case over.
        If they do embargo .za and it's new gov't run and subsidized agency, they set a dangerous precedent.
        Will internet embargos go up around China's .CN next time they piss off human right advocates or free speech fanatics?
        It's up to the citizens in those countries to change their process from the INSIDE OUT.
        Embargos rarely do what you expect them to. Look back on history for more info.

        -Malakai

        • You shouldn't make ASSumptions. I'm well versed in the architecture and protocols (both political and computational) of DNS.

          So you say. But you seem unaware of the essential nature of DNS - that is is just a database service designed to make IP addresses easier to handle. You seem to think it is part of a country itself, which just strikes me as misguided.

          .za is property. It's a ccTLD, which according to IANA defers to ISO 3166-1 on what constitutes a country and what doesn't.

          IANA and the International Standards Organisation may think it is property, or part of a state or whatever, but people who actually know DNS know that is is just a database lookup service for mapping hostnames to IP addresses. There can be other .za's, other . roots, people can use other TLDs or make up new ones. (How about .rsa?) It is all entirely flexible and fundamentally based on utility to the end-users (ISPs and their customers). Not only is it inappropriate for something like that to be run by governments, its not even enforcable nor does it make any logical sense. Notwithstanding all the arguments against the South Afican government being the domain owner for .za, their record on running .gov.za is shocking, and they haven't even bothered to go about requesting the transfer in the RFC complient way. To imagine they could get away with all this, and then introduce a government-controlled licencing scheme where domain delagatees needed permission from some corrupt government department every time they wanted to change a zonefile, shows a profound ignorance about the way these things work.

          If they do embargo .za and it's new gov't run and subsidized agency, they set a dangerous precedent. Will internet embargos go up around China's .CN next time they piss off human right advocates or free speech fanatics?

          The short answer is no. Lots of countries have poor human rights records, but most of the people who call themselves the government in these places know to leave TLDs alone, valuing their countries often fragile links to the outside world. They know the Internet represents a great hope for lifting themselves out of poverty and becoming modern countries. Mbeki's government in SA seems to be heading in exactly the opposite direction, deliberately harming South Africa and the people who live there.

          It's up to the citizens in those countries to change their process from the INSIDE OUT.

          Er no, not with DNS. You do not need to go round the townships getting votes in order to run a namesever. You need the co-ooperation of other DNS administrators and you need to be able to show them you 1) have the agreement of the delagator, and 2) can actuallly provide the service. The South African government fulfils neither condition.

    • You're badly confused. Actually reading the material would have helped.

      #1. This is not about human rights, it's about technical administration.

      #2. Democracy is irrelevant here. This isn't about government, it's about administration.

      #3. It _is_ ICANN's place to tell other countries how to run their TLD is they want to be on _the_ Internet.

      #4. It's _not_ theirs. Where I come from, we call what the South African govt is trying to do theivery.
  • I may be totally out of line here, but is the .za TLD under the jurisdiction of the banana^H^H^H^H^H^H South African law? Aren't they now passing laws over something which they have absolutely no control, like the guys selling real-estate on the moon?

    It wouldn't be the last if it is. Next time I bet they'll declare insulting the President illegal... oh wait, no! Don't arrest me! It was a jo... NO CARRIER
  • Please remember that a communist party came to power in 1994 and stuff like this has been going on ever since. The Doctrine teaches that everything needs to be under their control and that is exactly what is going to happen.

    So stop whining about it (ZA-ns and others). The time that you could have done anything about it has long passed. Instead you supported the new regime coming to power.

    (Yes, South Africa in fact does grow bananas.)

  • irony (Score:1, Funny)

    by 10 Speed (519184)
    should the irony of a South African internet BLACKout go unnoticed?

  • Excuse me gentlefolk, but could someone explain to me the link between ZA and "South Africa".

    Logic: "South Africa =.SA".. But I suppose that's taken. By what RIGHT to they claim ZA??

    Please inform me if you have this answer. Thank you. (PS: This is an actual question, not a troll. Thanks).
  • that we would be crying bloody murder if IANA cum ICAAN were to decide that the US government no longer had control over .us and instead by fiat gave gov.us to Grand Old Vines of Napa CA...

    throwing out the "white man's burden" of taking care of .za so the "silly ignorant government of South Africa" doesn't screw it up seems quite ass-backwards... If they do fuck it up, fine. So be it. We decided that ccTLDs would exist. They should exist equally and COUNTRIES should have control over their own ccTLDs...

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