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WCIT splits over the issue of "operating agencies"

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".

Use of the terms recognized operating agencies / operating agencies

Summary: 

The conference is split over who exactly is impacted by the ITRs themselves. "Recognized operating agencies" are a much small subset of companies - mostly traditional telecoms company - are they are the ones currently impacted by the ITRs. Some countries want this changed to just "operating agencies" which would then incorporate a huge number of other companies, especially Internet companies like Google or Facebook.

This document outlines a suggested compromise by the chair of the meeting: one that is unlikely to pass given the current weight of opposition to it.

Implications: 

If adopted, this compromise would greatly expand the impact of the ITRs to all those companies that use data networks, rather than those that simply operate them i.e. Google will become included rather than just, say, British Telecom, Italia Telecom or AT&T.

That would have far-reaching implications for the ITRs, ITU and overall Internet economy.

1. As agreed in the opening plenary, the Chairman of the conference would conduct informal discussions regarding the issue of the use of the terms Operating Agency (OA) and Recognized Operating Agency (ROA). These informal discussions were subsequently extended to include the topic of “basic definitions”, in particular the proposed ADD of 14A (telecommunications/ICTs) and 15A (international telecommunication/ICT service).

I. ROAs/OAs

2. Relevant provisions found in the Constitution are as follows:

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