ITU: WCIT-12 Can't Empower Governments to Exercise More Regulation of Internet

"There have not been any proposals calling for a change
from the bottom-up multistakeholder model of Internet governance to an
ITU-controlled model," Paul Conneally, head of communications and
partnership promotion for ITU, wrote on the organization's website Friday, with
the approval of ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Touré. "Internet Control is
simply not in the ITU mandate."

That will come as news to the U.S. delegation to the
upcoming WICT-12 telecom treaty conference in Dubai, a conference where
extending that treaty from traditional telecom to broadband, and whether that
should even be on the table, is the hot-button issue. The U.S. sees a number of
proposals as threatening the multistakeholder model.

ITU was responding to a letter from Greenpeace and the
International Trade Union Confederation UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon (ITU
is an arm of the UN) suggesting the ITU was trying to take over governance of
the Internet, a concern, though not in quite as stark terms, shared by the
Obama administration, both parties in both houses of Congress, and others.
They, like Greenpeace and the confederation, have been advocating for a
continued multistakeholder model of Internet governance.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that certain
countries are preparing to undermine this inclusive governance model,"
said Greenpeace and the confederation in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban
Ki Moon.

"ITU will continue to fully support the multi-stakeholder
approach which it initiated some ten years ago for the World Summit of the
Information Society," Conneally said. "WCIT-12 cannot empower
governments to exercise greater regulation of the Internet.

Touré also applauded countries, like the U.S., that have
included members of private industry in their delegations to the conference, a
conference where extending that treaty from traditional telecom to broadband,
and whether that should even be on the table, is the hot-button issue. 

In a statement, Touré called on the delegations from each
country to "engage with a broad range of stakeholders from across industry
and civil society to ensure all voices are heard."

That also followed criticism in the Greenpeace letter.
"We are becoming increasingly concerned at the lack of transparency
inherent in the approach of the ITU in its preparations for this
conference," they wrote. They point out that the ITU Governing Council
rejected Touré's request that all stakeholders be given access to preparatory
documents for the conference. "This decision on the part of governments
alone undermines any suggestion that ITU might itself constitute a multi-stakeholder
organization," they wrote.

"ITU Member States are entirely free to determine the size
and composition of their national delegations," said Touré. "We are
delighted to see some governments taking a broad multistakeholder approach by
including key private sector players and civil society groups as part of their
national representation to the conference -- a trend ITU applauds and
encourages," he said.

The U.S. delegation is concerned that the conference could
be hijacked by countries looking to boost their control of the Internet, either
to tax broadband traffic to make up for declining fees from exchanging
traditional phone traffic, or to gain greater control over content.

Broadband will obviously have to be part of the discussion,
but Terry Kramer, who is leading the U.S. delegation, has said the conference
should only be about asking questions on the broadband side, not trying to
answer them through expanding the ITR's (International Telecommunications
Regulations) to cover broadband issues like access, taxes, cybersecurity, or
trying to regulate International data roaming charges.

Touré's description of some of the proposals that have been
submitted for the conference -- Russia's is said to be particularly
broadband-regulation centric -- provides a sense of the many flashpoints that
could erupt. 

The U.S. is one of them. It has most of 100 members drawn from
the public, private and "civil society," the current collective noun
for public interest/activist groups. The list includes some familiar names,
including William Check, senior VP, science and technology, for the National
Cable & Telecommunications Association; Ed Black of the Computer and
Communications Industry Association; Harold Feld from Public Knowledge; David
Gross, now with Wiley Rein and formerly U.S. Coordinator for International
Communications and Information Policy at the State Department and with the rank
of ambassador; and Mindel De La Torre, chief of the FCC's International Bureau.

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.