The U.S. and Canada have proposed that the upcoming telecom
treaty conference in Dubai deal first with proposals to change the definition
of telecommunications or who the treaties apply to before getting down to the
details of any revisions.
The World Conference on International Telecommunications
(WCIT) begins Dec. 3.
Dealing with those "threshold questions" about the
scope of the treaties is a crucial first step, they told the International
Telecommunications Union in a joint filing.
Both countries are concerned about proposals by countries
including Russia, China and Syria, that would expand the treaties to include
broadband, an effort they see as opening the door to more government control of
content and new taxes on Internet traffic.
They propose that there be a plenary session to deal with
any changes to the preamble or Article 1 of the International Telecommunications
Regulations (ITRs). "If we can resolve those threshold, definitional issues
first, it will clarify the terms of the negotiations for the rest of the
conference," said Ambassador Terry Kramer, head of the U.S. Delegation.
It could also determine whether the U.S. remains at the
table. If the conference becomes an attempt to boost government control of the Internet
-- ITU's head says it will not -- the U.S. could walk out of the conference. Kramer
has said the conference needs to steer clear of the Internet and that the
U.S. would not be a party to that expansion of the ITRs, though he conceded it
was time to tee up questions about how broadband is dealt with going forward.