Internet Language Continues to Divide WCIT-12
ITU spokesman says there remains hope for consensus, but divisions remain
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 12/12/2012 9:58:11 AM
"Anything that alludes to Internet governance aspects, not the enabling part -- infrastructure or standards -- will be major sticking points," ITU spokesman Paul Conneally told B&C/Multichannel News from Dubai Wednesday.
At a plenary session Wednesday, proposals to include such language were rejected by the U.S. and its allies in the effort to keep those issues off the table and out of the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs), and both issues returned to ad hoc working groups for more discussion.
There is also as yet no agreement on whether the definition of who the treaties should apply to should be expanded from recognized operating agencies (ROAs), essentially network providers, to operating agencies, which could include Web services or sites. The U.S. is steadfastly opposed to expanding the definition.
Conneally said the parties were close to agreement on those contentious issues, but suggested it was more like a roller coaster ride, with "close" followed by distance, then close again.
The discussion was sometimes "passionate" as Iran, Cuba and others argued for including the language preventing any member from taking unilateral or discriminatory action that could impede another member's access to public international telecom networks, Internet sites and user resources, saying it was a fundamental human rights issue. The U.S. was reportedly just as passionate on the other side, saying the issue did not belong in a technical treaty and would oppose the inclusion since they were not pertinent to the treaty.
Bahrain weighed in strongly that they should be included, while Poland, the Netherlands and the U.K. argued that the Internet should be kept out of the ITRs, said Conneally. He later clarified that the argument is over Internet linked to content and governance, while the term applied to infrastructure remained an important role for the ITU.
Siding with the U.S., Japan said the text had political implications and should be avoided in the technical treaty. Kenya also supported leaving Internet out, which was being touted as the first African company to take that position.
The U.S., Sweden, Germany, Canada, and the UK all agreed text relating to government managing of naming and numbering and addressing international telecommunications should also be excluded, although Conneally said that those terms pre-date the Internet and are regularly used in standards work by ITU.
Even so, the U.S., Canada, Poland, Sweden, Germany, Canada, the U.K. and others objected to them in their entirety, saying it was an Internet governance issue that, while important, did not belong in the ITRS. Saudi Arabia made an impassioned defense of the language and argued that they had already made a number of compromises, that the text was not about Internet governance, and were "astonished" that there was the perception of a hidden agenda. That issue, too, went back to discussion.
The U.S.'s chief concern is that Internet-related texts will be used as leverage for content control of the Internet by some member states.
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