The members of the board of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) decided on Thursday 1 December not to renew the mandate of the working group on improved innovations IPv6.
The task force, established in January 2021, has been at the center of political controversy.
It was designed to identify improved use cases for IPv6 and present new business cases for emerging technologies. IPv6 is the most recent version of the Internet Protocol, which has enabled an increasing number of devices to be connected to the World Wide Web.
However, the so-called “enhanced” IPv6, also known as IPv6+, has quite a different connotation since it is not an established standard but a proposed extension of the latest internet protocol with features very different.
The idea for an improved internet protocol comes from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. Critics of the proposal saw it as a continuation of the New IP Proposal, a research program also led by Huawei that examined communication requirements for emerging technologies.
Although technically different, the two proposals have commonalities in that they would put in place a more centralized management system, which could allow internet service providers to identify and stop specific internet traffic.
Yet since IPv6+ was first proposed, key industry players like CISCO and Nokia have taken over some of its core features, like segment routing, an architecture to optimize traffic distribution centrally .
Likewise, the ETSI working group has become “its own beast”, following a steady increase in participation, reaching more than 100 members.
According to a source knowledgeable on the subject, support companies like CISCO saw the potential benefits of more centralized traffic management and felt they could control the potential downsides of IPv6+. CISCO did not respond to EURACTIV’s request for comment by post.
The body worked on developing a roadmap of features that would only become part of the official protocol once approved by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Indeed, from the beginning, the working group had its wings clipped because its mandate did not include the development of a standard but simply the production of reports.
However, for its opponents, even this activity is dangerous because it legitimizes a dangerous concept. The working group’s mandate would naturally have expired at the end of the year, but the chairman asked ETSI for an extension.
The request was met with strong opposition at the ETSI board meeting, prompting General Secretary Luis Jorge Romero, officially in charge of the decision, to acknowledge that the working group would not could not go forward.
According to two sources familiar with the matter, the European Commission played a decisive role in coordinating the opposition to the extension proposal, mobilizing a united front with France, Germany, the United Kingdom and much of industry.
“There is no reason to continue this discussion within ETSI, which should focus on defining technical standards. Otherwise it risks becoming political,” one of the sources said.
The fact that the Commission has decided to step up its game in leading against the proposal is due to the wider geopolitical landscape surrounding internet governance.
In June, EURACTIV reported that the Chinese government had circulated a resolution ahead of the development conference of the UN telecommunications agency, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which included a definition of IPv6+.
Officially, Beijing intended to create a common understanding of the use of the acronym, in particular by offering countries lagging behind in the deployment of the new protocol to finance an IPv6+ deployment.
In contrast, Western stakeholders saw it as an attempt to legitimize the concept, introducing it for the first time in an official document from a standards body and an attempt to gain more control over the digital infrastructure of developing countries.
China’s strategy in international forums has long been to present itself as the champion of the South, even going so far as to offer to pay for the deployment of IPv6+. This vision is well described in a recent white paper on building a community with a shared future in cyberspace.
The Chinese view is that the Internet should be divided into national spheres, loosely interconnected with each other and each under the “cyber-sovereignty” and rules of a country where foreign powers would not have the right to interfere. .
This view is consistent with the “Great Firewall” that blocks Chinese internet users from accessing most of the global internet, but this can only become fully effective if there is no global internet. and that what Beijing calls the “cyberhegemony” of the United States comes to an end.
The Chinese argument that internet governance is unbalanced is not without resonance as stakeholder-run bodies like the IETF see Western companies with their deeper pockets having the upper hand.
This is why proposals such as the new IP and IPv6+ have been made within the framework of the ITU, a body in which national governments have a decisive weight. However, the Chinese instrumentalization of the ITU suffered a major setback in September when the American Bogdan-Martin was successfully elected to head the UN agency against a Russian candidate.
[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]
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