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Battle lines being drawn for the next ITU conference

17 January 2013

Following the refusal by much of the ‘free’ world to sign a new ITU treaty in December 2012, FCC Commissioner Robert M. McDowell warned, ‘the worst is yet to come.’

“The United States,” he said, “should immediately prepare for an even more treacherous ITU treaty negotiation that will take place in 2014 in Korea. Those talks could expand the ITU’s reach even further.” McDowell seems convinced that the apparent ITU desire to control the internet is not a passing fancy, but a long-term intent. He may be right; and it may come before 2014. 

Last week the ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré released his draft report for the Fifth World Telecommunication/Information and Communication Technology Policy Forum 2013. “This draft report of the Secretary-General to the WTPF-2013,” it states, “aims to provide a basis for discussion at the Policy Forum, incorporating the contributions of ITU Member States and Sector Members, and serving as the sole working document of the Forum focusing on key issues on which it would be desirable to reach conclusions.”

Suggested themes for discussion include, “Global Principles for the governance and use of the Internet,” and “On the basis of reciprocity, to explore ways and means for greater collaboration and coordination between ITU and relevant organizations – including, but not limited to, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Society (ISOC) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) – involved in the development of IP-based networks and the future internet, through cooperation agreements, as appropriate, in order to increase the role of ITU in Internet governance so as to ensure maximum benefits to the global community.”

This is exactly what caused disarray in December’s WCIT in Dubai.

Meanwhile, a ‘de-fund’ the ITU petition has appeared on the White House ‘We the People’ website. A supporting website gives full details. “Fighting on behalf of the Internet,” it states, “the United States government and fifty-four other countries rejected the ITU’s takeover attempt, but this is a single battle in a war that the ITU will continue to fight. The ITU is spending more than $180M/year to oppose the Internet, and is drawing from its reserves more heavily each year ($9M in 2010, up from $5.5M in 2009), as progressive countries withdraw their payments from the ITU’s war-chest. The ten most oppressive countries in the Open Net Initiative's ranking of online freedom all sided against the internet, and none of them are giving the ITU as much as the US is.” If all of the countries that stood with the Internet against the ITU’s attack withdraw their funding, it claims, “the ITU’s membership revenue will be reduced by 74%.”

The petition also calls for future US delegations be reduced “to no more than one USG representative, tasked primarily with communicating a US position that the ITU’s only legitimate area of authority is radiocommunications.” The long-term danger from such entrenched views on both sides is that the world-wide nature of the internet might fracture into one internet under multi-stakeholder governance in the ‘free’ world, and a series of heavily government-regulated internets elsewhere.

“Freedom and prosperity are at stake,” warned Commissioner McDowell.

This article is featured in:
Compliance and Policy  •  Industry News  •  Internet and Network Security


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