Home opinion-and-analysis Cornered! ITU's claims of openness around WCIT-12 don't stack up

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The chorus of concerned voices being raised ahead of the International Telecommunication Union's forthcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) is growing in both the number and the status of participants. The ITU's latest attempt to address those concerns is not re-assuring.

WCIT-12 will be staged in Dubai to revise the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) that define the general principles for the provision and operation of international telecommunications. The current regulations - agreed to by 178 nations - were finalised in 1988 at the World Administrative Telegraph and Telephone Conference, in Melbourne.

There are two principle concerns: that certain states are, not surprisingly, seeking to exercise greater control over the free exchange of information that characterises the Internet; and that others are seeking to impose on the Internet a variant of the accounting rate regime that governs the exchange of telephony traffic between nations - and which has been a lucrative source of foreign exchange to some nations.

Compounding these are concerns about the secrecy surrounding the process. The revision to the regulations will take place behind closed doors against a background of contributions submitted by the ITU's member governments.

These contributions are not public and in an attempt to bring some openness to the process certain parties have created the aptly named 'WCITleaks' web site (wcitleaks.org) where some of these contributions have been posted.

The ITU, meanwhile, has been creating a show of openness around WCIT-12. In July it announced that the main preparatory document for WCIT-12 would be made public. It explained that the document "gathers together more than 450 contributions that members have submitted during the preparatory process of WCIT-12."

In August it announced that the general public would be able to make contributions to WCIT-12 and that member states had been "urged to consider and take account of submitted content in their preparations for WCIT-12."

None of this as done anything to silence the chorus of concerned voices to which most recently were added those of Greenpeace and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).  Earlier this month they sent an open letter to United Nations secretary general Ban Ki Moon (the ITU is an organ of the UN) expressing their "deep concern about a potentially very damaging change to the governance of the Internet," as a result of decisions that could be taken at WCIT-12.

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Stuart Corner

 

Tracking the telecoms industry since 1989, Stuart has been awarded Journalist Of The Year by the Australian Telecommunications Users Group (twice) and by the Service Providers Action Network. In 2010 he received the 'Kester' lifetime achievement award in the Consensus IT Writers Awards and was made a Lifetime Member of the Telecommunications Society of Australia. He was born in the UK, came to Australia in 1980 and has been here ever since.

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