WCIT issue index (26 July 12)


Stéphane Van Gelder: Thank you very much. Welcome everyone to this Council call on July the 20, 2012. And we have apologies from Wolf. He will be absent on this call.

Jeff Neuman will only be able to be with us for the first 30 minutes. So and that’s why we’re trying to start as soon as we can.

And Mason Cole will not have Internet access. So Mason if you’re on the line and you need to ask questions please just speak up so that I know that you need to be counted in the queue.

[Roll call]

Stéphane Van Gelder: Thanks Glen. And just for the record I will note that I am also present. And come to any statement of interest updates?

Hearing no updates, any calls to review or amend the agenda please?

Thomas Rickert: Would it make sense to discuss the defensive registration subject and the IOC debate while Jeff is on the call? This is (Thomas) sorry. Jeff would you like that?

Jeff Neuman: This is Jeff. That’s fine. I mean I can listen to the recording but if you guys want to do that that’d be great.

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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.


The following speech was given by Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves on 8 June 2012 at the 4th International Conference of Cyber Conflict in Tallinn. You can also read it on the Presidential website.

Cyber-security and liberal democracies

For the last three conferences here in Tallinn, I have focused on technological threats from cyberspace. I shan't spend much time on these matters today. Recent events only have confirmed and brought into the public eye what you at this conference have been discussing for years.

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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?

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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.


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.

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It was a year ago this week that US Assistant Commerce Secretary Larry Strickling first started making noises about a meeting of the ITU that was going to happen toward the end of the following year.

"Next November," he warned, "the United States will participate in the ITU’s World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). This treaty negotiation will conduct a review of the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), the general principles which relate to the provision and operation of international telecommunication services.

"We can expect that some states will attempt to rewrite the ITRs in a manner that would establish heavy-handed governmental control of the Internet and cybersecurity. These are the countries that we, including all of us in this room, must reach to promote the multi-stakeholder model, and our work must begin right away."