WCIT issue index (22 November 12)

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.
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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.

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ICANN finally approves Arabic top-level domain. A week before WCIT

The news earlier this week that Sudan would soon have its own top-level domain in Arabic was greeted warmly.

But perhaps unsurprisingly there was no mention in the formal announcement of the long delay in getting Sudan its internationalized domain name (IDN); a delay that has soured relations between ICANN and parts of the Middle East.

Earlier this year in Geneva, the delayed Sudanese bid for an Internet extension in its own language was used forcefully by ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré as an indication that ICANN was not accountable nor served the interests of developing nations.

Worse, when Touré leveled the accusations at ICANN in a room full of government representatives and Internet governance experts, it was clear that ICANN's representative, who only moments earlier had given a speech explaining how ICANN had internationalized, had no knowledge of the issue.

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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.