from guardian.co.uk: A proposed global telecoms treaty that would give national governments control of the internet
has been blocked by the US and key western and African nations. They
said they are "not able to sign the agreement in its current form" at
the end of a International Telecoms Union (ITU) conference in Dubai.
proposals, coming after two weeks of complex negotiation, would have
given individual governments greater powers to control international
phone calls and data traffic, but were opposed as the conference had
seemed to be drawing to a close late on Thursday.
The move seems to safeguard the role of the internet as an
unregulated, international service that runs on top of telecoms systems
free of direct interference by national governments.
was first to declare its opposition to the draft treaty. "It is with a
heavy heart and a sense of missed opportunities that I have to announce
that the United States must communicate that it is unable to sign the
agreement in its current form," Terry Kramer, head of the US delegation,
told the conference, after what had looked like a final draft was
"The internet has given the world unimaginable economic and social
benefit during these past 24 years. All without UN regulation. We
candidly cannot support an ITU Treaty that is inconsistent with the
multi-stakeholder model of internet governance."
The US was joined in its opposition by the UK, Canada, Costa Rica,
the Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Kenya, the Netherlands, New Zealand,
Poland, Qatar and Sweden. All said they would not sign the proposed
final text, meaning that although a number of other countries will sign
it, the treaty cannot be effectively implemented.
end, the ITU and the conference chair, having backed themselves to the
edge of a cliff, dared governments to push them off," commented Kieren McCarthy, who runs the internet consultancy dot-nxt. "They duly did."
Access Now, a lobbying group against ITU oversight of the internet,
said that "despite all of the assurances of the ITU secretariat that the
WCIT wouldn't discuss internet governance, the final treaty text
contains a resolution that explicitly 'instructs the [ITU]
secretary-general to take the necessary steps for the ITU to play and
active and constructive role in... the internet.'" It urged governments
not to sign it.
The ITU is a UN organisation responsible
for coordinating telecoms use around the world. The conference was meant
to update international treaties which have not evolved since 1988,
before the introduction of the internet.
But the conference
has been the source of huge controversy because the ITU has been
accused of seeking to take control of the internet, and negotiating
behind closed doors. Google has mounted a vociferous campaign against
conference proposals that would have meant that content providers could
be charged for sending data and which would have given national
governments more control of how the internet works. Instead, lobbyists
have said the treaties should simply not mention the internet at all
because it is a service that runs atop telecoms systems.
a bloc led by Russia, with China and the United Arab Emirates – where
the conference is being held – said the internet should be part of the
treaties because it travels over telecoms networks. A Russia-driven vote
late on Wednesday seemed to push to include the internet in a
resolution – a move the US disagreed with.
The failure to
reach accord could mean that there will be regional differences in
internet efficacy. "Maybe in the future we could come to a fragmented
internet," Andrey Mukhanov, of Russia's Ministry of Telecom and Mass
Communications, told the Reuters news agency. "That would be negative
for all, and I hope our American and European colleagues come to a
The US and Europe have indicated that they instead want private companies to drive internet standards.
who has published ITU planning documents that would otherwise have been
kept out of sight on dot-nxt's website, criticised the conduct of the
meeting: "attendees were stunned to find a conference style and approach
stuck in the 1970s," he said.
Writing on the dot-nxt site,
he said: "A constant stream of information was available only in
downloadable Word documents; disagreement was dealt with by increasingly
small, closed groups of key government officials; voting was carried
out by delegates physically raising large yellow paddles, and counted by
staff who walked around the room; meetings ran until the early hours of
the morning, and "consensus by exhaustion" was the only fall-back
Attempts by the ITU to encourage the US to sign
the proposed treaty by removing clauses – such as one that would give
individual countries rights over website addresses – failed.