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Overview of JPNIC
-- History of Internet governance in Japan --

at OECD/OSIPP Workshop (OSAKA)
June 10, 1998
Japan Network Information Center
Naomasa Maruyama

1. History and organization.

Japan Network Information Center, hereafter abbreviated as JPNIC, was founded as a Union of Internet service providers in Japan in April of 1993. On March 31, 1997, it was given permission by the government to register as a probono association. Although has mainly been working in JP domain name assignment and IP address assignment in Japan, it has added some new activities concerning education and census on the Japanese Internet as its objectives at the time of the registration.

Governmental structure of JPNIC is explained by its four organs: a general assembly, a board of trustees, a steering committee, and a secretariat. The general assembly, consisting of all members of JPNIC, is convened two or three times a year, and decides budgets, authorizes audit reports, elects trustees, and makes other important decisions. The board of trustees is empowered to administer the organization. Currently JPNIC has 17 trustees. Members of the steering committee are appointed by the board. Its role is to advise the board of trustees about various issues including JP domain name and IP address assignment policies. The steering committee has several working groups involved in the topics it deals with. The secretariat helps these activities. It also carries out daily businesses including JP domain name and IP address assignments. It currently consists of 19 employees.

Although the trustee board is empowered to administer the organization and it makes important decisions with the assistance of the steering committee and the secretariat, JPNIC has a responsibility to listen to public opinion because it is a probono association. To fulfill the responsibility, we have several mechanisms to get public comments, i.e. open mailing lists, face to face meetings that are not restricted to members.

We have some mottos of our organization, some of which are explicitly stated, and some are not, which we can call fundamental policies of JPNIC. They are: non-profit and public welfare, neutral position, supported by ISPs, provide common infrastructure for the Japanese internet, promoting commercialization of the internet, and no commitment to connectivity and routing. The last one may sound a little unusual, but we feel it is the reason we have had no trouble between member ISPs so far. Connectivity and routing problems sometimes have great commercial value currently on the Internet, so we think this policy is very important in order to remain neutral to all ISPs.

The budget for the fiscal year 1998 is about 672 million JPN (4.8 million U.S. dollars); 38% of which is from membership fees, 39% from assignment charges, and the remaining part being the balance carried over from the previous fiscal year.

Concerning the membership fee, recent OECD report on Internet domain names gives excellent explanation. The membership fee is dependent on the number of domains each ISP supports. This system is based on the idea that the DNS servers of JP zone, which we understand as the common infrastructure for the Japanese Internet, must be supported by our members' corporation. The report states that:

The registrar in Japan charges a one-off fee to applicants but charges to members are made on the basis of how many domains they support. In practice this means IAP members of JPNIC are responsible for annual maintenance charges.

Namely, yearly maintenance fees for the DNS servers, in some sense, are paid indirectly through member ISPs.

2. JP domains

JP domain names are categorized into two groups: one being functional type domains, and the other, geographical domains. Currently, we have 7 functional types, each of which is identified by a 2-letter code second level domain name. For example, NIC.AD.JP is assigned to JPNIC itself, which is working on network administration, so that the domain name has "AD" as its second level domain name. The seven second levels are AD, CO, AC, GO, OR, NE and GR.
Geographical domains have suitable codes indicating the location of the organization, as the second level.

JPNIC's assigning policy is roughly summarized as follows:

2.1. first come, first served,
2.2. one domain name per organization,
2.3. non-transferable,
2.4. local presence in Japan.

For the principles 2.2 and 2.3, analogous policy may not be found in the InterNIC's com domains. JPNIC thinks these principles play important roles in reducing possible conflicts of domain names, and prevent trading of domain names, of which JPNIC thinks adds little to the development of the Internet.

To speak about the roles of each functional type, "NE" is probably somewhat special for JPNIC. Domain names with this second level are assigned to services on the Internet which will issue IDs to individual clients. One such example of this is the famous commercial service "Compuserve" in the US. However, if JPNIC assigns a CO.JP domain name to such a service, then there will be no way to distinguish the e-mail addresses of the employees of the service company and the e-mail addresses of the clients. Therefore, JPNIC introduced "NE" second level in order to make a distinction between these two.

3. IP addresses and AS numbers

JPNIC allocates blocks of IP addresses to member ISPs, and they assign the necessary amount of addresses to users. This procedure is now based on an Internet draft RFC 2050. As is well known, explosion of RIPs is an essential problem on the Internet recently, therefore JPNIC is doing its best to promote a hierarchical assignment system of IP addresses mentioned by the RFC with the collaboration with APNIC. AS number assignment is also done with the collaboration with APNIC.

4. Delegation of assignment business to ISPs

JPNIC began charging for domain name and IP address assignments in June of 1995. At the time, we thought these businesses must be shared with member ISPs, and implemented by a delegation system of businesses. This system means that ISPs act as a go-between us and the applicants, and they send refined application forms to us and we make the final decision and register them into our database. We intended the system to have two major purposes: one is to reduce our work load and the other is to improve the interface with applicants. We charge reduced fees to ISPs for these transfered applications, and ISPs are allowed to charge extra to applicants. This system has been quite successful, and has also provided a competitive environment in the assignment businesses.

5. Epilogue

In closing, I would like to mention that lots of our experiences will provide good examples for Internet governance. For example, our fees for domain name and IP address assignments were the first in the world and the delegation system mentioned before is very much similar to the registry/registrar model in the gTLD-MoU. In this sense we feel we have been working at the very frontier of this field, and we are proud of that. We think it was better that we didn't have any financial support from the government at all, because it forced us to think how we can "privatize" the system from the very beginning.

I hope our experience will provide a good example in the current discussion of Internet governance.

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