European Parliament joins WCIT opposition

The European Parliament has joined the voices protesting against the upcoming WCIT conference by approving a resolution that some of the proposals under consideration "could seriously threaten the open and competitive nature of the internet".

More worrying for the organization running the conference, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the 12-point resolution incorporates a point repeatedly pushed by the United States in recent weeks - that the organization itself is not the correct place for such discussions.

Point five in the resolution reads:

The ITU, or any other single, centralised international institution, is not the appropriate body to assert regulatory authority over either internet governance or internet traffic flows

Among the other strong criticisms leveled in the resolution are: that the process itself has lacked sufficient transparency and inclusiveness; that the proposals would have a negative impact on the Internet and the digital economy; and that the ITU is seeking to become a "ruling power" over aspects of the Internet.

The resolution is not binding on the European country representatives that will attend WCIT from 3-14 December, but they will be made aware of it and will want to avoid a repeat of the ACTA treaty were the work of diplomats, made in secret, were subsequently unraveled and ultimately discarded.

ITU response

In response, the ITU's main staff person for WCIT, Richard Hill, posted a blog post calling the resolution "flawed".

Following a trend of recent highly defensive posts in response to a growing campaign against the conference, Hill complains: "I don’t understand why European parliamentarians did not obtain correct information – either directly from the ITU Secretariat – or from their Member State representatives."

He then dissects parts of the resolution, claiming that the process has been inclusive of member states that civil society were a part of delegations to the conference and had been given an online platform for their views.

Hill also attempts to tackle a number of misconceptions about what changes have been put forward and what impact they would be able to have, even if adopted.

"No proposals exist to give more power to ITU as an institution, which does not have any regulatory authority over any networks whatsoever," he wrote, also noting that: "freedom of expression and the right to communicate are already enshrined in many UN and international treaties that ITU has taken into account in the establishment of its Constitution and Convention… Since the ITU Constitution prevails over the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), nothing in the ITRs has the power to result in a reduction of freedom to communicate."

And reality...

What Hill fails to acknowledge, as critics immediately pointed out, is that only government representatives are allowed speak at WCIT; only governments are allowed to put forward changes to be considered; and the online portal he highlights was only introduced after significant criticism of the process and the submissions sent in have had no impact on the conference or the ITU and have not even been supplied to delegates to the conference.

While a concerted campaign - led by the United States and US-based Internet organizations - has created a misleading picture of what will be discussed and agreed to in Dubai, the ITU's defensive tone and refusal to accept widespread criticism of the process is likely to inflame tensions further.