References to the Internet linked to governance of content,
or perceived to be so, continue to be the major points of contention at ITU's
WCIT-12, the international telecom conference in Dubai.
"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
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.