Organization: ITU

ITU is the International Telecommunication Union and is the semi-autonomous arm of the United Nations that has traditionally dealt with telecommunications (including radio spectrum, satellite orbits, telco standards and telecoms infrastructure).

The ITU is an inter-governmental body created in 1865 and based in Geneva. In recent years it has allowed for some involvement from business and other stakeholders.

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9 December 2012
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A full rundown of all the issues up for discussion in Dubai

The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) continued this weekend with full-day meetings on both Saturday and Sunday.

There are multiple issues on the table so here is a rundown of the most significant and where negotiations currently are.

The "compromise" bomb

All work is currently being overshadowed by the decision by the ITU and host country to introduce what has been promoted as a "compromise text" at the plenary session on Monday morning.

8 December 2012

A leaked draft of a so-called "compromise text" to be introduced on the first day of the second week of the WCIT conference contains a number of proposed changes that will have some governments and most Internet organizations fuming.

Here are the most troublesome parts:

Article 3.3

MOD 3.3: A Member State has the right to know the international route of its traffic where technically feasible.

This was already a controversial proposal, with civil society groups claiming that it would allow for widespread online monitoring.

The addition of the word "international" is this text makes it plain that the intent is to track traffic not just within a country's own borders but outside as well.

Article 3A - The Internet

8 December 2012

A leaked document has confirmed fears that a world conference held by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will be used by some countries to expand government control over the Internet.

A draft of a document to be provided to the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) on Monday morning and provided to website WCITleaks includes a number of proposals that have prompted fierce disagreement during the first week of the two-week conference in Dubai. The draft also includes a number of previously unseen additions.

In particular, the document proposes:

  • That governments be given a "right to know" what route has been taken by information over data networks - something that civil society groups have warned would enable widespread online monitoring.
6 December 2012

Telecoms conference can't move forward until it's agreed who the regulations will actually apply to

Conference chair Mohamed Nasser Al-Ghanim has put forward a compromise solution - but level of ambiguity means it is unlikely to be agreed to

The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) has dramatically split and may grind to a halt until a key distinction over whom precisely the resulting international treaty apply to is decided.

At the heart of the issue is the term "operating agencies". Currently the international telecommunication regulations (ITRs) apply only to "recognized operating agencies" - and that means large telecoms operators in each country1.

Some countries want that term changed to just "operating agencies", which would mean the ITRs become applicable to a vastly larger number of groups - in fact, "any individual, company, corporation or governmental agency which operates a telecommunication installation".

5 December 2012

The lowdown on Russia's contribution 27

Russian minister Nikolai Nikiforov will be a key influence in the conference outcomes.

Probably the only reason you're reading this post is because of fears that the United Nations will use the WCIT conference to gain power over the Internet.

The focal point for those fears has become a contribution by the Russian Federation, sent on 13 November - 10 days after the announced deadline - and then revised four days later.

Contribution 27 appears to confirm everything that people have been worrying about - an effort to use a revision of an international treaty agreed in 1988 to provide governments with additional controls over the functioning of the Internet.

So here is a rundown of what is exactly in Contribution 27 - both the original and revised versions - and an analysis of what the implications of its adoption would be.

5 December 2012

This article is published with permission. It was originally posted on and TelecomTV on 2 December.

The Question to Ask About the WCIT

The key question that Internet advocates must ask as the ITU updates its International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs) at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) this week is: What is being legitimized by these proceedings?

4 December 2012

The Kenyans settle in at WCIT. Credit: ITU

After a busy start, WCIT started to settle down into a familiar mode on the second day of the conference. The main highlights were:

  • A bid by Canada and the US to get some key definitions agreed before work starts was pushed off until the end of the week
  • The meeting delegates all agreed that they agreed with freedom of expression and human rights but that they didn't want to write it into a telecoms treaty - a press release was produced instead
  • Russia's controversial new article covering the Internet was pushed into "informal discussions"
  • Ghana's idea to review the ITRs every eight years (rather than 24 years) was met aggressively by the United States.
  • The ITU's Secretary-General pushed access in developing countries and the high cost of Internet access, pointing to a likely strategy for the rest of the conference.
4 December 2012

It’s not what you think

It must have come as quite a shock to the world to learn at the last minute that this week the United Nations is going to take over the Internet.

A wave of articles, op-ed pieces and interviews in the past few days have grown increasingly concerned about what will result from the WCIT conference in Dubai.

Just a few days ago, the Syrian government cut its country off from the Internet. Was this the future we are now all facing? Governments deciding what and when we can go online? Faceless bureaucrats monitoring everything we do?

As the claims grew hysterical - and the ITU became increasingly defensive and frustrated in response - the Internet itself started providing the world with the answers. Subject experts took to their keyboards and began to debunk the claims on both sides.

At the end of it, what does WCIT boil down to? An effort by old telecoms operators to make more money. An effort that, by the way, is likely to fail.

3 December 2012

These predictions are part of a longer article on the conference covering how it will work and what has happened so far.

The topic of Charging and Accounting will be where there will be the most heated exchanges occur at the WCIT conference.

In a nutshell, some countries want to apply the traditional telecoms (think: telephone) pricing models onto the Internet. Nothing focuses the mind like billions of dollars in lost or gained revenue.

It is notable that the country that has been making the biggest noise about WCIT - the United States - has this issue of pricing as its number one priority.

It is no coincidence either that the ambassador (and so head of delegation) that has been specially chosen for WCIT, Terry Kramer, used to be a senior executive at Vodafone. Nor that Kramer has consistently identified the pricing issue as his number one priority at WCIT. Kramer is expected to have 101 reasons why the pricing model of the telephone should not apply to the Internet - and he may need them all.

3 December 2012

These predictions are part of a longer article on the conference covering how it will work and what has happened so far.

Foolish as it may be, we have some predictions for what will happen between now and the end of WCIT. Here they are:

  • Nothing radical will appear in the ITRs. Instead it will be agreed that they will be reviewed in four or eight years' time and a range of working groups will be formed to work on various issues and report to the Council next year, take it to the ITU Plenipotentiary for initial review in 2014, and onto the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) in 2016.
  • The United States will push its hand incredibly hard (bolstered by its huge delegation of industry representatives and over-excited civil society/Internet groups who have all persuaded each other of their own truth). It will threaten to take a reservation once too often and will end up being saved by either Canada or a European country.
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