The ITU is to hold a World Conference On International Telecommunications, (WCIT) in Dubai in December to revise the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) that define the general principles for the provision and operation of international telecommunications.
The current regulations - which have the status of an inter-government treaty - date from 1988: they were finalised at the World Administrative Telegraph and Telephone Conference (WATTC 88) in Melbourne.
They led to the development of the current accounting rate regime that establishes how international operators compensate each other for terminating voice calls. Analysys Mason says: "We understand that some countries are seeking to impose this regime on Internet traffic, with the apparent purpose of providing additional revenues to increase the build-out of infrastructure in various types of markets."
"The Internet and the international voice network are fundamentally different: The two networks differ substantially in terms of technology, architecture and market structure. Any attempt to impose settlements, which are increasingly difficult to apply even to voice, to the Internet are likely to hinder its development and evolution.
"Imposing ITU accounting rules on the Internet will harm developing countries: Any attempt to impose settlements would lead some providers to take actions to lower their settlement fees, while others would take actions to increase their settlement earnings, which could impact the availability of content and corresponding investments in developing nations."
It argues that: "In particular, the Internet is far more susceptible to impacts from the imposition of settlements than the voice system, due to an intrinsic difference in traffic flows. While voice traffic between two countries must originate with a caller in one country and terminate with a caller in the other country, many Internet services do not have to originate from a fixed location, as up to 98 percent of Internet traffic consists of portable data traffic such as file sharing (peer-to-peer), video or web pages.
"Such content can be stored in servers located in multiple locations around the world, and from there traffic can be delivered to users faster and at lower cost. This has led to dramatic ongoing shifts in usage patterns and global Internet traffic flows – For example, the vast majority of international Internet bandwidth from Africa has shifted from the US to Europe, and now, increasingly it is being stored in servers in Africa where it can be accessed domestically or regionally. Such movements would be disrupted by imposing settlements on the flow of such content."
Analysys Mason received funding for the white paper from Amazon, AT&T, Cisco Systems, Comcast, Google, Intel, Juniper Networks, Microsoft, National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), News Corporation, Oracle, Telefónica, Time Warner Cable, VeriSign, and Verizon. However it says: "The analysis and conclusions presented in this report are those of the stated author and Analysys Mason Limited, and have been arrived at independently of any client-specific work."
The ITU is conducting WCIT-12 with a degree of openness unprecedented for the organisation. It has made a draft of the principal input document to the conference publicly accessible and is inviting the general public to input contributions, via a website set up for the purpose. An FAQ and a set of background briefs covering the main topics likely to be discussed at the conference can be found at http://tinyurl.com/wcitfaq.