Thursday, 27 June 2013
CASE 438 - ITU, The UN's internet governence
The UN's International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has been moving forward with plans to consider a number of proposals to takeover aspects of internet regulation and governance. There are a number of different proposals being submitted by different countries. The problem, of course, is that the setup of the ITU is not open to the public or open source such as many other things set up by the people for the people, and there are some special interests involved mainly by countries with oppressive governments looking to use this as a way to gain control over the internet for the sake of censorship, as well as local (often state-run or state-associated) telcos using the process to see if they can divert money from successful internet companies to their own bank accounts. While the ITU likes to present itself as merely a neutral meeting place for all of these proposals, what's been clear for a while is that the ITU leadership has taken an active role in encouraging, cultivating and supporting some of the more egregious proposals.
ITU also wants to organize worldwide and regional exhibitions and forums, such as ITU TELECOM WORLD, bringing together representatives of government and the telecommunications and ICT industry to exchange ideas, knowledge and technology. The ITU is active in areas including broadband Internet, latest-generation wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology, convergence in fixed-mobile phone, Internet access, data, voice, TV broadcasting, and next-generation networks. ITU, based in Geneva, Switzerland, is a member of the United Nations Development Group. Its membership includes 193 Member States and around 700 Sector Members and Associates.
Current proposals look to take into account the prevalence of data communications. Proposals under consideration would establish regulatory oversight by the U.N. over security, fraud, traffic accounting as well as traffic flow, management of Internet Domain Names and IP addresses, and other aspects of the Internet that are currently governed either by community-based approaches such as Regional Internet Registries, ICANN, or largely national regulatory frameworks. The move by the ITU and some countries has alarmed many within the United States and within the Internet community. Indeed some European telecommunication services have proposed a so-called "sender pays" model that would require sources of Internet traffic to pay destinations, similar to the way funds are transferred between countries using the telephone. The WCIT-12 activity has been attacked by Google, which has characterized it as a threat to the "...free and open internet." On 22 November 2012, the European Parliament passed a resolution urging member states to prevent ITU WCIT-12 activity that would "negatively impact the internet, its architecture, operations, content and security, business relations, internet governance and the free flow of information online". The resolution asserted that "the ITU is not the appropriate body to assert regulatory authority over the internet".
On 5 December 2012, the lower chamber of the United States Congress passed a resolution opposing U.N. governance of the Internet by a rare unanimous 397–0 vote. The resolution warned that "... proposals have been put forward for consideration at the [WCIT-12] that would fundamentally alter the governance and operation of the Internet [and] would attempt to justify increased government control over the Internet", and stated that the policy of the United States is " to promote a global Internet free from government control and preserve and advance the successful Multistakeholder Model that governs the Internet today." The same resolution had previously been passed unanimously by the upper chamber of the Congress in September.
On 14 December 2012, an amended version of the Regulations was signed by 89 of the 152 countries. Countries that did not sign included the United States, Japan, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, India and the United Kingdom. The Head of the U.S. Delegation, Terry Kramer, said "We cannot support a treaty that is not supportive of the multistakeholder model of Internet governance". The disagreement appeared to be over some language in the revised ITRs referring to ITU roles in addressing unsolicited bulk communications, network security, and a resolution on Internet governance that called for government participation in Internet topics at various ITU forums. Despite the significant number countries not signing, the ITU organisation came out with a press release: "New global telecoms treaty agreed in Dubai