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Dubai: World Conference on International Telecommunications

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In the networed era, it is strange that an international conference which is seeking to update the world’s communications treaties for the first time in 24 years is hardly noticed by the media in India.

The conference web page lays out the agenda:

[The Intern­ati­onal Telec­om­munication Union] ITU is convening the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from 3-14 December 2012. This landmark conference will review the current International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs), which serve as the binding global treaty designed to facilitate international interconnection and interoperability of information and communication services, as well as ensuring their efficiency and widespread public usefulness and availability.

The treaty sets out general principles for assuring the free flow of information around the world, promoting affordable and equitable access for all and laying the foundation for ongoing innovation and market growth. The ITRs were last negotiated in Melbourne, Australia in 1988, and there is broad consensus that the text now needs to be updated to reflect the dramatically different information and communication technology (ICT) landscape of the 21st century.

The conference will consider a review (see PP-06 Resolution 146) of the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), which define the general principles for the provision and operation of international telecommunications.

However, many groups around the world believe that the call for changes in the treaty is an attempt to control the internet. WCIT Leaks, which is a great source of material for those pining for news, lays out its agenda:

The forthcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications is marred by a lack of transparency. Access to preparatory reports, as well as proposed modifications to the ITRs, is limited to ITU member states and a few other privileged parties. This leaves civil society groups, and the public in general, in the dark. To foster greater transparency, we are offering a way for those in possession of such documents to make them publicly available. They can be anonymously submitted to us, and we will publish them here.

Deccan Chronicle touches on one of the most contentious issues:

ITU’s relationship with Internet governance has been complicated. In 1997, it was happy to take a hands-off approach, cooperating with Internet Society and others, only to seek a larger role in Internet governance soon after. In part this has been because the United States cocked a snook at the ITU and the world community in 1998 through the way it established Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) as a body to look after the Internet’s domain name system. While the fact that the US has oversight over ICANN needs to change (with de-nationalisation being the best option), Russia wants to supersede ICANN and that too through current revisions of the ITRs. Russia’s proposal is a dreadful idea, and must not just be discarded lightly but thrown away with great force. The ITU should remain but one among multiple equal stakeholders concerned with Internet governance.

ZDNet reported:

New proposals submitted to the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) aim to redefine the Internet as a system of government-controlled, state-supervised networks, according to a leaked document.

The WCIT-12 summit in Dubai is currently where the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is being held, where member state countries are going head-to-head about proposed revisions to the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR), a legally binding international treaty signed by 178 countries.

The leaked document [PDF] was proposed by a member state bloc comprised of Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Sudan, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The leaked proposal specifically defines the Internet as an: “international conglomeration of interconnected telecommunication networks,” and that “Internet governance shall be effected through the development and application by governments,” with member states having “the sovereign right to establish and implement public policy, including international policy, on matters of Internet governance.”

The secretly drafted proposal were posted on WCITLeaks, a Web site where conference proposals are being anonymously leaked, partially due to the fact that WCIT-12 conference proposals have not yet been made available to the general public.

The document also reflects one country’s relentless push to redefine the Internet — most recently seen in Russia’s original proposals for WCIT-12 [PDF].

The ITU blog commented on another contentious issue, that of inspection of internet traffic (packets):

ITU-T members have approved a new ITU standard on Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) which will enable Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to manage network traffic more efficiently and thereby heighten users’ quality of service and quality of experience (QoS and QoE). These buy-side advantages are mirrored by advantages on the supply-side, in that ISPs are granted another tool to curb their capex and opex costs as the demand for network infrastructure expansion continues to grow.

The World Telecommunication Standardisation Assembly (WTSA) held in Dubai last November resolved some concerns regarding maintaining privacy after it was noted that the standard deals with the identification of the application used rather than the inspection of users content. The standard does not allow access to users’ private information and allows measures to ensure the secrecy of correspondence.

The standard know as Recommendation ITU-T Y.2770, Requirements for Deep Packet Inspection in Next Generation Networks, is a product of ITU-T Study Group 13 (Future networks including mobile and NGN) and was one of six ITU-T Recommendations submitted to WTSA for approval.

Broadcasting and Cable reported:

At a press conference Monday, an ITU representative provided a wrap-up of the final meeting of the committee dealing with key Internet access and payment issues and suggested many of the most contentious issues including a sender-pays model for Internet traffic, Internet security, spam, routing and nondiscriminatory access to information had yet to be resolved. “There are quite a few square brackets remaining, so a lot of text still in dispute,” they said, which will now go to plenary sessions.

ITU said there had been good progress on issues including quality of service and provision of facilities and a new agreement on a global emergency number. “We do not have good consensus on security, spam, routing and questions on whether the topics should even be included in the International Telecommunications Regulations [ITRs],” ITU said. The U.S. is firmly in that camp.

Cuba was said to have offered a proposal related to nondiscriminatory access to the Internet that generated “quite a lot of discussion in the committee.” The U.S. said the conference was not the place to discuss access regulations, joined by Sweden, Canada, Costa Rica and Britain. Supporting the proposal were Iran, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Russia, Palestine and Bahrain.

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