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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26 July 2012
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According to Saki, “a man is known by the company he keeps”. When you cut through the hysteria, hyperbole and doomy predictions about WCIT, you’re left with the now-familiar Internet governance binary choice: ICANN or ITU.

Let’s leave aside for the moment the unanswerable, and unanswered, question of how a transition from one to the other would be made, whether the “Internet community’ would accept any forced change, or whether it would just go off and do its own thing (as usual). Let’s focus instead on which is better, ICANN or ITU.

It’s clear that if these things were done on merit, neither organisation covers itself in glory. ICANN, the enfant terrible of Internet governance is the once-beautiful child, full of potential, capable of greatness, now transformed into the spotty, grunting adolescent, slouching in doorways and developing unsociable habits. It continues to baffle observers by its capacity to ignore the things it should be doing, and do the things it shouldn’t.

26 July 2012

A treaty meeting in December is pitching powerful forces against one another. The good news is that with fear comes opportunity.

Click for larger version. Cartoon: Patrick Taylor.

When representatives of the world's governments sit down in Dubai this December to discuss how to update global telecommunication regulations, they will, in one way or another, be deciding the future of the Internet's evolution for the next decade.

That's not something that has been missed by the country that continues to dominate the Internet's development, the United States, nor by the emerging powers of Brazil, India, China and Russia, who will use the WCIT conference as an opportunity to challenge the way the Internet is currently governed.

11 July 2012

The organization that can keep pace with the Internet is destined to walk away with the rights to govern the global network

Who will break free from its cocoon first: ICANN, the IGF or ITU?

The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress
-- Charles Kettering

Charles Kettering was a most remarkable American. As an inventor, engineer and businessman, he made many of modern life's luxuries possible, including the car (he invented the start motor) and the refrigerator (invented Freon). He also moved Henry Ford's famous black automobile into the world of color by developing lacquered paints suitable for mass-production.

Kettering was a fierce believer in change. "If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong," he once said. And he was damning about people's inability to see what changes needed to be made and why. "People are very open-minded about new things - as long as they're exactly like the old ones," he warned.

9 July 2012
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The International Telecommunication Union is an old and august institution, created in 1865, making it the first ever international body.

It was created to help make the most of the then-new telegraph technology by getting countries to agree how they would deal with information that was relayed to, from and through their territories.

Having been successful in that, the ITU picked up more and more work as the human race entered the telecommunications age, eventually becoming the de facto body for telecoms, including standards, financing, metrics, and even installation.

In the same way that ICANN has change written into its structure, the ITU is notable for how it has changed over time, in many cases leading the way. It was the first United Nations organization to pull in the private sector; it values academics; it started developing new standards around the advances in technology that led to the Internet as we now know it; it tries to ensure equal participation from developing countries, as well as gender balance.

26 June 2012

Distinguished colleagues, Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be with you here this morning and let me offer a very warm welcome to all participants.

I would like to start by saying how flattered I was by the attention that was given to the informal, impromptu remarks I made at 2pm on the 23rd of April, during this working group’s last meeting. I suppose that mentioning the word ‘Internet’ wakes everybody up, and gets them to pay attention.

Those remarks were recorded on the webcast of the meeting, so I am surprised that I seem to have been misquoted in some reports. I have reviewed the report of your last meeting, however, and my remarks have been correctly summarized there. Let us therefore consider the matter closed and move forward with our busy schedule here over the next three days.

Please also rest assured that these present remarks will be duly published on ITU’s web site; and I would also request that they be annexed verbatim to the report of this meeting.

Distinguished colleagues,

26 June 2012
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During April and May 2012 the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, responsible for preparation of the Dutch position on the ITR review during WCIT 2012 in Dubai, consulted technical and business experts and stakeholders in a series of meetings. The main conclusions are represented in this summary report.

The ITR review is "managed" by the Council Working Group on ITR’s, and is building on the preparation that has been taking place over recent years, now with one more official meeting planned to take place in Geneva, 20 to 22 June 2012. In the years leading up to where we are today it has become clear that the ITRs will remain in place – even if some countries in earlier stages of the discussions were of the opinion that they were no longer necessary. So the focus is on getting the best possible result out of the meeting in Dubai, in December 3-14 this year.

12 June 2012
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No let up in vocal skirmishes as summary document leaks

ITR discussions begin to resemble Monty Python's argument sketch

It is an unsettling truth that if you are being physically attacked, experts recommend you should shout the word "fire" rather than "help".

Why? Because if people hear the word "fire" they immediate think it could affect them too, so you get their attention. Once you have it, people find it much harder not to rush to your aid.

It is difficult to picture the United States government in the role of victim, but even so it has been on a concerted and organized campaign to shout the word "fire" as frequently and loudly as possible in recent months over an upcoming conference in Dubai in December. The Internet is being attacked by the United Nations, come the cries, and if you don't help, you can kiss goodbye to the network you know and love.

12 June 2012

The following speech was given ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré to staff on 6 June 2012. It was published - unusually - in response to an aggressive campaign by the US government that pointed to the WCIT conference in December as containing threats by the United Nations to take over control of the Internet.

Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12)

Remarks to ITU Staff on WCIT-12

06 June 2012, Geneva, Switzerland

Dear Colleagues,

I have called this meeting because you are all no doubt increasingly aware of the great importance of the World Conference on International Telecommunications, WCIT-12, which will be taking place in Dubai in December.

I say ‘increasingly’, because unlike some of our work – and even some of our most important work – which passes under the radar screens of the global media, this particular conference, WCIT-12, is very much in the public eye.

Calendar event
29 May 2012

This is the eighth and final meeting of the Council Working Group of the ITU over the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT).

Where: Geneva

Draft agenda
1. Opening of the meeting
2. Adoption of the Agenda
3. Review of report of the previous meeting
4. Review of proposals contained in the compilation of proposals and report regarding
5. Consideration of other contributions
6. Agree a final draft of the future ITRs
7. Finalize the report to WCIT-12
8. Finalize the report to Council 2012
9. Review of report of the present meeting
10. Any other business
10.1 Draft structure of the WCIT-12
11. Closing of the meeting

22 May 2012
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ITU and Internet community despair of each other over ITRs

"We are tied together, we are almost married," explained Alex Ntoko, the head of ITU Corporate Strategy, to a number of representatives of the Internet community last week in Geneva. If Ntoko is right, it quickly became clear that this is a loveless marriage.

During a polite but tense meeting, Ntoko outlined his organization's plan to revise a global treaty known as the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs). The ITRs were created in 1988, went into effect in 1990, and have not been touched since. They form one of the four treaties of the ITU - which are reviewed every four years, although it has taken 24 in this case - and they will be updated in December this year at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai.

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