The head of the Obama administration's top telecom advisory
entity says the WCIT-12 telecom treaty conference was a failure, and pointed a
finger at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
Larry Strickling, head of the National Telecommunications
& Information Administration and a member of the WCIT delegation, said in a
speech to the PLI/FCBA Telecommunications Policy & Regulation Institute in
Washington on Friday that ITU failed to deliver on two promises -- "that
it would operate by consensus and that Internet issues would not be appropriate
for inclusion in the ITRs. As it turned out, the ITU could not deliver on
either of these promises."
The U.S. and more than 50 other countries refused to sign
the revisions to almost 25-year-old International Telecommunications
Regulations (ITRs) due to Internet-related language that could be used by some
countries to justify government Internet governance and possible censorship.
The good news, he suggested, is that it is not unusual for
the ITRs not to apply to all ITU members. For example, the U.S. didn't sign
them until 1973 and they were first drafted in 1850 (yes, 1850).
In addition, the 1988 ITRs remain in effect until January
That said, it remains to be seen, he pointed out, what
effect they would have on businesses doing business in the signatory countries.
"I would suggest that to the extent the new language
gives some nations the prod to make substantial changes in the way they deal
with the Internet within their borders and in their international
relations," he said, "those changes likely are not sustainable in the
long run given how interconnected the world has become and the need for all
nations and their economies to be integrated into this global interconnection
for them to succeed."
He was echoing the sentiments of Ambassador Terry Kramer,
head of the U.S. delegation Thursday (Dec. 13), whenthe U.S. signaled it could not support the treaty.
Also like Kramer, Strickling suggested that the marching
orders of those who support the multistakeholder model of Internet governance
is to make that case to those who are concerned about issues like span, child
porn and sustainable infrastructure development, who would be open to finding
solutions. The U.S. case is that those need to be addressed, just not in the
context of ITU telecommunications treaties. "Our challenge, starting now,
is to work hard to increase the number of countries that support the
multistakeholder model," he said.
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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.