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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28 November 2012

The following post and its three companion pieces are reproduced by permission. It was originally published on 10 June 2012 at

Over the past few weeks, a mounting number of commentators in the U.S. have pushed a supposed new threat to an open internet into the spotlight: the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

According to those raising the alarms, preparations to revise the ITU’s international telecommunications regulations (ITRs) at a meeting this December are being hijacked by a motley assortment of authoritarian countries, legacy telecoms operators, as well as the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and other developing countries. Their goal? To establish “international control over the internet”. Indeed, the issue is deemed so serious that congressional hearings on “International Proposals to Regulate the Internet” were held in the U.S. at the end of last month.

There seem to be three main claims behind the charge.

27 November 2012
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This is the second in a series of posts that takes a critical look at claims that proposed changes to the international telecommunications regulations (ITRs) at the WCIT meeting later this year could see the ITU establish “international control over the internet”.

My previous post described some of the background to the issues, and three key claims that are being made: (1) the ITU currently has no role with respect to the Internet but is hell-bent on changing this at WCIT; (2) the ITU is a state-run telecom club; (3) that it is a Trojan Horse for a plot by authoritarian states and legacy telcos to impose a new Web 3.0 Model – Controlled National Internet–Media Spaces – over the open global internet.

22 November 2012

A raft of changes, including cybersecurity, are under consideration at WCIT

It was just after the fifth meeting of the ITU Council Working Group in Geneva in September 2011 that a powerful group of ambassadors, former ambassadors and under-secretaries in the United States decided they had to build public awareness over a series of obscure telecoms regulations - the ITRs - drawn up back in 1988.

At that stage, the ITU working group had already been working for a year on preparations for a World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). And some within the ITU had been working for several years before that to get agreement on the need to revise the International Telecommunication Regulations at all.

Agreement had finally been reached to revise the regulations, and everyone knew that meant a once-in-a-generation opportunity to restructure how telecoms are dealt with at a global level, and how communications will develop into the future for everyone on the planet. Some frantic activity ensued.

22 November 2012

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.

22 November 2012

Unswayed by a meeting with the ITU Secretary-General, ITUC head tell us: "We will continue to oppose these proposals"

Burrow: Trade union federation will 'stay the distance' in opposing WCIT proposals.

The world's largest trade union organization, the ITUC, has rejected efforts to explain concerns over the WCIT conference next month as "misunderstandings" and will continue to oppose its proposals, Secretary-General Sharan Burrow told us.

Warning that the implications for e-commerce and jobs were "extraordinary" and slamming the conference proposals for "having been kept secret until a month ago", Burrow has promised that the ITUC will lobby hard within the United Nations to prevent was she termed "mandate creep" on the part of the ITU.

22 November 2012

Conferences are very fluid and often go at a breakneck speed, especially when there are many hundreds of changes to be discussed and approved, modified or rejected.

Adding to that is the fact that it is a closed conference. You need to be a formal representative of an ITU Sector Member or be invited onto your government's delegation to be allowed into the room.

Documents are only available through a password-protected website and there will be no live-streaming or scribing of events.

So how on earth are you going to find out what is happening, let alone follow events as they happen?

We have the answer for you.

We hope to make it possible to follow events live in three ways:

  • Documentation - We will be updating our document pages as the conference progress. See Your Guide to WCIT documentation for full information. As we update proposals, the newest one will appear at the top of pages.
22 November 2012

Last-minute WCIT submission fuels fears of UN control efforts

Contribution 27 saw Russia propose exactly what people feared. It softened the wording days later following an outcry.

With sad inevitability, fears that the WCIT conference was always going to be about surreptitious efforts by the ITU and some countries (read Russia, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia) to take over the Internet came true last week.

Ten days had passed since the official cut-off date for contributions when Russia sent its contribution, now numbered 27. In it, the Russian government asked for a whole new article to be added, and introduced it with a long creed about the importance of the Internet.

"The Internet has an impact on every aspect of human activity within society," it reads before extolling its virtues with regard to education, politics, business and everything in between.

21 November 2012

Don't drown in WCIT docs, use our search pages to make sense of it all.

With over 200 documents and many thousands of pages it is extremely difficult to even find relevant documents for the WCIT conference yet alone understand and digest what has been said and what is being proposed.

The ITU's staff has done an excellent job in distilling those inputs - called contributions - and there is one large document from which much of the conference will work, called "Final report of the Council Working Group to prepare for the 2012 World Conference on International Telecommunications (CWG-WCIT12)".

That document is still overwhelming however. Added to which, just a week out from the conference, and far past the 3 November deadline, new documents are still being received (from Tunisia, Cuba, Australia, Russia, Israel and Paraguay, so far).

26 July 2012
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What is the WCIT?

The World Conference on International Telecommunications 2012 (WCIT-12) is an international meeting hosted by the ITU. It'll review the ITRs and will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from 3 to 14 December 2012.

Ok, that's too many acronyms. From the top: what's the ITU?

The ITU is the UN agency looking after information and communication technologies (ICTs). It's an inter-governmental body with 193 country members and more than 750 private-sector companies, organizations and academic institutions members/associates of its three sectors (Radiocommunication, Telecommunication Standardization, and Telecommunication Development). You can find lists of these member states, sector members and associates here.

The ITU is not to be confused with the ITU Secretariat. The former makes the decisions in a "bottom-up" process, the latter facilitates the process.

Ok great. So what are the ITRs?

26 July 2012
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On 5 July, the ITU announced that it had signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with European Telecommunications Standardization Institute (ETSI), replacing two earlier MoUs they had signed in 2000 (with the ITU-T) and 2002 (with the ITU-R).

The latest MoU will "smooth the way for regional standards, developed by ETSI, to be recognised internationally" and provide "a single framework through which to channel ITU, ETSI collaboration", according to an ITU press release. The release also explains that this latest agreement follows on from an MoU signed in 2011 with four national standards development organizations (SDOs) in Asia.

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