Why we are making all WCIT documents public

Today, we are publishing all documents related to the World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT) that will take place in just over a week in Dubai.

We would like to explain why.

As interest has grown over the outcomes of this conference (thanks largely to concerns raised about what they may be) the issue of availability of related documents has itself become a major bone of contention.

These documents are widely available to those within the telecommunications industry, and they are available for download to all members of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Membership of the ITU is open to all and the organization relies on the resulting fees to carry out its important global work. It is a system that has worked for decades.

Times have changed however and we feel that there is an overwhelming public interest case for bypassing this agreed approach and making the WCIT documents available without charge.

Here is why.

Contained within the WCIT documents are a number of proposals that have far greater impact and import than the system was ever designed to handle. As has been pointed out recently, several proposals, if accepted, would have a significant impact on the Internet. One proposal last week, for example, argued for an entire new set of regulations specifically focused on the Internet.

But that is not the whole picture and it is important when there is such a significant global discussion happening for all the facts to be on the table.

The Internet as we know it did not exist when the international treaty and regulations that this conference seeks to update - the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) - were created. Yet, while the Internet has had a profound global impact in the meantime, the process that will be used in this case to develop rules that will affect the global network remains largely unchanged since 1988.

Any organization divested with the power to make significant and binding change must be obliged to properly account for the views of those it is impacting.

Despite some belated efforts to do just that, the ITU has demonstrably not reached such a baseline and risks undermining its own proud history and processes by reacting against criticism rather than recognizing it as an opportunity to reinvent itself, as it has done in the past.

The provision of information covering what will actually be discussed next month has become a symbol of this outdated process; but it is not an especially useful one.

A few contributions have been "leaked" and published on the Internet (we count 36 of 215 relevant documents), adding to a sense that there is some kind of global conspiracy among governments to increase control over the Internet.

In response, the ITU has tried to explain its processes and point out that just because a proposal has been made does not mean it will happen (as anyone who has ever observed a law being made will know). But all too often, the ITU has been forced into a defensive position, leading critics to believe all the more strongly that something untoward is happening.

Gaining access

By publishing these documents today, our intent is to provide context and to remove an unnecessary obstacle in the way of informed and intelligent debate.

In an effort to respect the process up to this point as well as account for the fact that all the documents were produced in a closed environment with expectations of confidentiality, we have set up a simple account registration process. Once registered, you will be able to move around freely.

What's more, we have taken this opportunity to provide some "value add" (which is what .Nxt does). Rather than force viewers to wade through hundreds of separate documents, and thousands of heavily formatted pages, we have used Internet technologies to greatly simplify and speed up the provision and understanding of this information.

All documents are formatted in simple HTML language. The documents are searchable, interactive, quickly and easily located, and tagged for both content and context.

We have included the ability to flag the most significant documents and to provide editorial comment where we feel it will be most valuable. We have also designed a system that we hope will provide a real-time and readily accessible overview of decisions and discussions as they happen next month in Dubai.

This, after all, is the Internet and that is what the Internet is all about.

You can do a search of documents at http://news.dot-nxt.com/itu/wcit/docs-search.

For a guide to the documents and the different ways you can access them, please check out our guide to WCIT documentation