Western Nations Refuse to Accept Divided ITU Proposal
Has Cyber Cold War Begun?
Ignoring repeated objections from the United States, Canada and EU nations, the International Telecommunications Union continued to press forward at the World Conference on International Telecommunication (WICT-12) with a proposal that would open the door to UN regulation of the internet.
a momentous occasion and historic opportunity to bring connectivity to the two thirds of the world’s people who are still offline.
The United States and other western nations are determined not to yield control of the internet to the ITU. Whether this leads to a protracted power-struggle and a divided internet (or as The Economist eloquently suggests a Cyber Cold War) or simply is a giant step in the ITU’s path towards irrelevancy remains to be seen.
Other voices on the WCIT’s failure to reach consensus:
I say to the 89 states that signed today the treaty, thank you. I hope that the 55 states that said they do not want to sign the treaty, or need to hold consultations, to think again.
Mohamed al-Ghanim, head of the United Arab Emirates Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and host/chairman of WCIT-12/.
Maybe in the future we could come to a fragmented internet. That would be negative for all, and I hope our American and European colleagues come to a constructive position.
The Internet has given the world unimaginable economic and social benefits during these past 24 years – all without UN regulation. We candidly cannot support an ITU treaty that is inconsistent with a multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance.
These past two weeks, we have of course made good progress and shown a willingness to negotiate on a variety of telecommunications policy issues, such as roaming and settlement rates, but the United States continues to believe that Internet policy must be multi-stakeholder driven.
Internet policy should not be determined by member states but by citizens, communities, and broader society.
No single organization or government should attempt to control the Internet or dictate its future development. We are resolute on this.
Countries have national sovereignty rights, so they can do what they want [internally]. What we don’t want is a set of global agreements where countries say this treaty gave us the right to impose conditions.
U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer
Today, America’s delegation to the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), led by Ambassador Terry Kramer, stood strong for Internet freedom when it proclaimed that it would not sign new international rules that capture the Internet. Our delegation’s resolve should be commended.
Unfortunately, a majority of the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Member States, including many countries that purportedly support Internet freedom, chose to discard long-standing international consensus to keep the Internet insulated from intergovernmental regulation. By agreeing to broaden the scope of the ITU’s rules to include the Internet, encompassing its operations and content, these nations have radically undermined the highly successful, private sector, non-governmental, multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance.
If this assault on Internet freedom continues unabated, consumers’ prices will rise while investment and innovation will stall. As egregious as today’s action was, many of the anti-freedom proposals were turned back – but the worst is yet to come. The United States 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.
There are countries and groups who wish to exert greater control over the Internet in order to restrict or censor it for political or cultural reasons. We need to stand firm against those kinds of threats if we want the Internet to continue as a vibrant engine for innovation, human rights, cultural and economic growth.
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
The final treaty text tabled in Dubai included provisions that threaten these freedoms and, as a result, Canada and many other nations were unable to sign on to these new regulations.
The Government considers that the proposed changes are unhelpful, unwarranted, and represent a significant threat to innovation and free and open debate that the internet fosters. The way the internet has developed and evolved to where it is now is due to a multi-stakeholder approach to internet governance. This approach takes into account the views of business, civil society, and the academic and technical communities as well as those of governments.
Under the cover of darkness the United Nations appears to have moved one step closer to regulating the Internet.
What is clear from the ITU meeting in Dubai is that many governments want to increase regulation and censorship of the internet.
The Internet Society, like other participants at the World Conference on International Telecommunications, came to this conference looking for a successful outcome. We were hopeful that it would result in a treaty that would enable growth, further innovation, and advance interoperability in international telecommunications. It was extremely important that this treaty not extend to content, or implicitly or explicitly undermine the principles that have made the Internet so beneficial.
While progress was made in some areas such as transparency in international roaming fees, fundamental divides were exposed leaving a significant number of countries unable to sign the ITRs. Statements made by a host of delegations today made it very clear that Internet issues did not belong in the ITRs and that they would not support a treaty that is inconsistent with the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance.
The most important result of the conference has been to demonstrate that the world now splits into two camps when it comes to the internet: one is comprised of more authoritarian countries, which would like to turn back the clock and regain sovereignty over their own national bits of the internet; the other wants to keep the internet and its governance as it is (bearing in mind that some of its members’ motives may not always be as pure as they pretend).
This sounds much like a digital version of the cold war. The funny thing is that the leading countries in the two camps are the same two that were at loggerheads until the iron curtain parted. One must hope that the failure of the WCIT is not a first step towards raising a digital one.
Mistake piled on mistake and yet the ITU seemed incapable of responding, relying on member states to arrive at their own solutions and ignoring civil society, the technical community and even hundreds of thousands of concerned global citizens that took to online petitions to express their disgust at decisions being made over the Internet in closed, government groups.
In the end, the ITU and the conference chair, having backed themselves to the edge of a cliff, dared governments to push them off. They duly did. And without even peeking over, the crowd turned around and walked away.