Civil Society Groups Concerned About ITU, Interconnection

Public Knowledge and other civil society groups are warning against any effort to regulate interconnection on a global scale, or for the International Telecommunications Union to get more involved in Internet governance.

That came in a set of recommendations for the ongoing ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan Korea this week.

“While further studies of peering and interconnection are welcome, we warn that attempts to regulate interconnection at global level are unlikely to solve the problem of infrastructure gaps, and could have a negative impact on users in developing countries, while also increasing cost, limiting online innovation and undermining network neutrality,” the groups wrote.

Also potentially undermining that neutrality are efforts by some countries to get ITU more involved in Internet oversight.

“We are surprised by proposed modifications suggesting that the ITU should undertake greater coordination with other organizations so that it may become more involved in Internet governance,” the groups said. “This raises concerns about mission creep.”

As previously signaled, the groups also want ITU to improve transparency by giving civil society groups a greater role in deliberations, including making all documents publicly available, with carve-outs for those whose publication could cause harm.

All of their asks are reprinted below:

  1. “ITU transparency and participation. The ITU should update its own procedures, improving transparency and allowing greater scope for participation of civil society and other actors in its deliberations – including by making all documents publicly available on the ITU website, with the exception of cases in which disclosure would cause potential harm to a legitimate private or public interest.
  2. ”ITU role in internet governance. The ITU should work with other actors to contribute to furthering multistakeholder internet governance, rather than attempting to take on new responsibilities for the development of international internet public policy. The ITU should not seek a role in the development of policies on core Internet resources such as domain name and addresses. The ITU should continue to focus on ever more important core issues such as access, infrastructure and related capacity building.
  3. “ITU and the WSIS. The ITU along with other relevant agencies such as UNESCO and stakeholders around the globe should work in a multistakeholder manner consistent with the WSIS+10 review MPP in implementing the WSIS High Level Event outcomes. The ITU should work towards ensuring that the modalities for the WSIS+10 review in 2015 are similarly open, transparent and inclusive.
  4. “ICTs in the post-2015 development agenda. The Plenipotentiary should express strong support for ambitious and measurable commitments in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to build an inclusive information society. The role of ICTs in achieving the SDGs is generally recognized but reference to ICTs in the SDGs themselves is minimal and the ITU, along with other UN agencies, should address this deficiency.
  5. “Capacity-building. The ITU should enhance the provision of capacity-building support to developing countries through ITU-D, ITU-T and ITU-R, in their respective roles and through collaboration, whilst also ensuring that these efforts are coordinated with those of standard-setting and other bodies that do similar or associated work.
  6. “Cybersecurity. Although concerns about strengthening cybersecurity are legitimate and important, it is premature to instruct the ITU to begin discussions on developing a global cyber-security treaty, given the lack of consensus on key issues, including what constitutes the use of force in cyberspace and how to govern activity which falls short of that threshold, as well as the organisation’s currently lack of transparency and openness. Further multistakeholder discussion should be encouraged.
  7. “International interconnection and net neutrality. The ITU should not attempt to address access and infrastructure issues in developing countries through policy and regulatory changes to global peering and interconnection, but encourage IXPs, infrastructure build-out, local content development and enabling environments that promote investment and competition.
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.