Is the world of Internet going to be divided in to two over who is gong to regulate the use of one of the media platforms that revolutionized modern life?
Looking into the reports and statements coming out of the ongoing World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) as indicators, one cannot rule out such a possibility.
The twelve-days-old Conference is coming to a close in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Friday doomed by its failure to reach consensus on a treaty on revised international telecommunications regulations.
The landmark conference was convened to review the current International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), which serve as the binding global treaty designed to facilitate international interconnection and interoperability of information and communication services, as well as ensuring their efficiency and widespread public usefulness and availability.
The international community got together in Dubai with the aim of updating the ITRs, which were last negotiated in 1988, to reflect the dramatically different information and communication technology (ICT) landscape of the 21st century.
But on the eve of the conference conclusion, several of the 193 member nations, including the United States, Costa Rica, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Britain, New Zealand, Canada and Poland, said they refuse to sign WCIT-12 treaty, expressing their reservations over the text of the draft amendments.
Some of these amendments sought to extend the ITRs to include Internet governance.
The U.S. delegation was the first to say it would not sign the treaty, saying that the controversial document gives International Telecommunication Union (ITU) more Internet control.
Terry Kramer, the Head of the U.S. Delegation, told reporters that it couldn't support an ITU treaty that is inconsistent with a multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance.
The United States and the like-minded countries want the Internet operating under regulations guided by the multi-stakeholder organizations ICANN and IANA.
And they want the Internet, which has given the world unimaginable economic and social benefits during these past 24 years without UN regulation, continue to remain so.
But Kramer pointed towards the danger of curtained Internet in societies such as China, Iran and North Korea, which brings the World Wide Web under the control of ITU or individual countries.
The UAE was reportedly forced to withdraw in Dubai Conference a surprise proposal supported by countries including Russia and China that attempted to address Internet governance in a way that shifted more authority to individual governments.
Kramer said, "This conference was never meant to focus on Internet issues; however, today we are in a situation where we still have text and resolutions that cover issues on spam and also provisions on 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." The US Ambassador made Washington's stand clear by saying that "Internet policy should not be determined by member states but by citizens, communities, and broader society, and such consultation from the private sector and civil society is paramount."
The United States has consistently outlined its serious concerns about proposals at the ITU conference that would mandate unnecessary international Internet regulations, regulations that would add significant cost and could lead to increased censorship.
US State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland sounded more stubborn when she said, "Without the United States support, you can't change the treaty."
"We've made clear that we will not accept any treaty text that includes provisions related to Internet regulations, and we've - but at the same token, we've strongly supported efforts to expand international telecommunication services. So we very much regret that instead of working on that latter dossier, instead of focusing on promoting innovation and market growth in the telecom space, this conference has gone in the wrong direction," she told reporters at a routine press briefing.
Australia's Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has confirmed that Australia will not be signing a revised international telecommunications treaty, saying it has the potential to fundamentally change the way the Internet operates. Over the past two weeks, Australia's position has been that the Internet should not be included in the ITRs and that for the ITRs to be enduring and useful they should focus on the interconnection of international telecommunication networks.
The Internet Society, a global cause-driven independent organization that is participating in the event, expressed disappointment over Fundamental Divides at World Conference.
In a statement on Friday, its CEO and President, Lynn St. Amour said 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 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, he added.
by RTT Staff Writer
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