The highlights and low points of WCIT

It was both very fast and painfully slow. The key moments

Iran forces a vote, and presages the end of WCIT. Credit: ITU

One thing that everyone could agree on in the build-up to the World Conference on International Telecommunications was that anything could happen during the two weeks in Dubai.

The logic of forcing the world's governments into a box to rewrite a global treaty that has stood for 24 years in just 14 days may be questionable, but it definitely creates an event and along with that moments that stand out and set the general tone and atmosphere of the meeting itself.

Here are that main ones from WCIT 2012:


Opening ceremony

Internet humbles UN telecoms agency

ITU forced to face modern realities as WCIT conference implodes

Having turned industries and governments upside down, the Internet has claimed its first organizational scalp, subjecting the United Nations' International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to a humiliating failure at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai earlier today.

No sooner had applause run out after a vote on what to include in the preamble to an updated global telecoms treaty than the United States took the floor and announced it would not sign it.

"It's with a heavy heart and a sense of missed opportunities that the U.S. must communicate that it's not able to sign the agreement in the current form," said Ambassador Terry Kramer. "The Internet has given the world unimaginable economic and social benefit during these past 24 years. All without UN regulation. We candidly cannot support an ITU Treaty that is inconsistent with the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance."

WCIT petition attracts 500,000 online citizens

Half a million and counting...

More than a half a million people have signed an online petition calling on the ITU to reign in proposals that would given governments greater control over the Internet.

The 500,000 benchmark was reached at 7pm local time while attendees to the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai reconvened for a night session where they hope to reach agreement on most changes to the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs).

Ad hoc group of Committee 5



Regular review of the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs)

The World Conference on International Telecommunications (Dubai, 2012),


a) that the Council Working Group to prepare the 2012 World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) has held extensive discussions on the ITRs;

b) that there have been wide consultations in all ITU regions, involving ITU Member States, ITU Sector Members, Associates and Academia and Civil Society groups, showing great interest in the revision of the ITRs;

c) that many input documents have been submitted by the ITU membership;

d) the outcome of the WCIT-12,


a) Article 25 of the ITU Constitution;

b) Provision 48 (Article 3) of the ITU Convention;

c) that the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) is one of the pillars supporting the ITU’s mission;

d) the 24 years passed between the approval of the ITRs and its review at this Conference;

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".

WCIT: Put off to tomorrow what you can't do today

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.

Here's what WCIT has really become about: money

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.

Our predictions for WCIT

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.

WCIT lowdown: it's all about Africa and Committee 5

Everything you need to know about how WCIT will pan out

ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure opens the conference. He has a lot on his plate. Credit: ITU

WCIT has got off to a quick and effective start.

Having spent much of the past year preparing for the conference and notwithstanding a number of last-minute contributions, the governments of the world are ready for what will be a contentious conference.

The first day saw the heads of delegations meet and thrash out agreements that their staff had already largely agreed. Then came the opening ceremony and a stage-managed but important display of support between the ITU and ICANN. The message was plain: WCIT will not be about Internet governance.

That's not to say there aren't important and contentious issues coming over the next two weeks. Most significant are:

Every ITR change at the click of a button

Note: drop-down menu will only appear when users sign in to .Nxt

Track progress at WCIT in real-time and with the actual words

Starting today and running through to the end of the WCIT conference on 14 December, .Nxt will be making every proposed change to the International Telecommunication Regulations accessible with a single mouse-click.

With hundreds of changes (we count 908 so far) spread across dozens of documents, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible to make sense of what the substantive changes are that will be discussed at the WCIT conference starting on Monday, 3 December 2012. Even if you have the documents, which come in Word doc or PDF format.

So we have inputted every proposed change into a database and broken them out by article in the ITRs, including the many new proposed articles.

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