As the World Conference on International Telecommunications draws to a close, it has become clear that the issue on Internet governance is a hot issue. The United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom all refused to sign a United Nations treaty pushing for more control over how the Internet should be governed. The topic has been under negotiation by the world body for the past two weeks.
U.S. Ambassador to the World Conference on International Telecommunications, Terry Kramer, expressed his view that the United States does not intend to sign the treaty as it is being presented.
“We candidly cannot support an ITU treaty that is inconsistent with a multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance,” Kramer said in one of the conference sessions. “As the ITU has stated, this conference was never meant to focus on Internet issues.” He said that the conference was supposed to delve into other issues instead of discussing how to handle spam and provisions on Internet governance.
“Internet policy should not be determined by member states but by citizens, communities, and broader society, and such consultation from the private sector and civil society is paramount,” Kramer added. “This has not happened here.”
The delegation of the United States decided to withdraw following an unexpected call for a voice vote on the controversial proposal to give governments help in expanding Internet access late Wednesday. The proposal was approved in a controversial way, prompting some participants upset and undecided. Many countries including the United States are opposed to the discussion of Internet in the conference at all.
The chair of the conference, Dr. Hamadoun I. Touré, explained that the approved treaty did not include Internet provisions but said that the controversial issue can be found in a non-binding annexed resolution.
“The conference did NOT [sic] include provisions on the Internet in the treaty text,” he said. “Annexed to the treaty is a non-binding Resolution which aims at fostering the development and growth of the Internet.”
Kramer hinted that the U.S. would continue with the conference following last Wednesday’s debacle. He denied rumors that the U.S. delegation will leave the conference earlier this week.
The following Thursday saw several countries conceding that the conference was the wrong avenue to deal Internet issues.
The conference called World Conference on International Telecommunications, or WCIT, was intended to discuss things to update how international telecommunications should be governed, which has remained unchanged since 1988.
The U.S. had continually agreed since the start of the conference that Internet governance is out of the picture. Several countries including China and Russia argued against the view of the United States by submitting proposals meant to give governments power to help fight spam and cyberattacks. The Americans and other internet advocates warned that such proposals may give governments more censoring power, a move that would encourage further disruptions of the web.
The U.S. is in favor of a hands-off policy when it comes to how the Internet should be managed.
“The Internet has given the world unimaginable economic and social benefit during these past 24 years,” Kramer was quoted. “All without U.N. regulation.”