ITR: The next battleground in internet regulation
This December in Dubai the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will hold a conference to negotiate the latest round of revisions on proposed internet regulations. As EFF notes, “some proposed amendments to the ITR—a negotiation that is already well underway—could potentially expand the ITU’s mandate to encompass the Internet.”
One must marvel for a moment at the sheer number of international and demostic Internet regulatory schemes currently underway: SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, CISPA, H.R. 1981, TPP and now ITR (which has been around for quite some time).
The ITU was created for the express purpose of fostering growth in international telecommunications and ensure universal access for members states. A rather inspiring and innocuous mission, to be sure. ITRs are telecom regulation measures adopted by ITU in 1988 in Melbourne, Australia, and which came into force in 1990. 178 states have signed the ITRs, but while universal access is still a mission, an open negotiation process is not a top priority for the ITU.
“The framework under which the ITU operates does not allow for any form of open participation. Mere access to documents and decision-makers is sold by the ITU to corporate ‘associate’ members at prohibitively high rates,” writes EFF. “Indeed, the ITU’s business model appears to depend on revenue generation from those seeking to ‘participate’ in its policy-making processes. This revenue-based principle of policy-making is deeply troubling in and of itself, as the objective of policy making should be to reach the best possible outcome.”
According to Edward J. Black, President and CEO of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, “Russia, along with China, North Korea, Iran and other notably nondemocratic countries, are advocating for [this] international regulation of the Internet.” Yes, there are 174 other state signees, but one should be suspicious about any treaty including those aforementioned nations.
Black notes that these groups have advocated for an international code of conduct created by the UN General Assembly, but also for a superstructure to manage the Internet with only UN member governments having the right to vote. This is not as it should be. Everyone internationally should have access to the documents and the negotiations.
In an effort to open up the process, EFF, European Digital Rights, CIPPIC, CDT and a coalition of international civil society organizations have demanded that “the ITU Secretary General, the WCIT-12 Council Working Group, and ITU Member States open up the WCIT-12 and the Council working group negotiations, by immediately releasing all the preparatory materials and Treaty proposals.”
Internet users worldwide should have a say in any treaty or legislation that seeks to control the Internet—not a few men and women in suits.