WCIT Split After Split “Vote” On Internet Governance Resolution

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Dubai, UAE – A mere resolution, not part of the future International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR), led to yet another escalation at the ongoing World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai last night.

[Update:] The ongoing WCIT negotiations for new ITRs came to a halt after a controversial vote on the nondiscriminatory access of countries to networks. A conclusive vote ended the debate and also the possibility of many ITU member states agreeing on the future ITR. Only 89 of 144 eligible delegations signed, while 55 reserved their right to do as they choose, which for the large blocs, like the US, EU and Japan, but also Kenya, Costa Rica and Colombia, means they can stick to the old ITR. [end]

The link to the new ITR is here [pdf]. The list of signatories is here. [end update]

The already tense discussions escalated when the WCIT Chair Mohamed Al Ghanim, after asking for a “sense of the room” by a show of the name plates, declared the resolution adopted by the majority of delegates.

Late night vote at WCIT; Photo credit: Monika Ermert

New Zealand, Sweden and Spain issued reservations about that “coup.” The UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which is organising the meeting, normally only decides by consensus and not by voting or by majorities, and the ITU secretary general had said the organisation would stick to that rule.

The United States and European countries spoke against the resolution just before, with US Ambassador Terry Kramer, head of the large US delegation, saying that in any event the US had “not come to this conference in anticipation of a discussion on the internet.” The US and European countries yesterday drew their red lines with regard to the scope. For that camp, the slightest implication for the internet is the trigger to ultimately not sign the potential future ITR.

The future ITRs, intended to be an update of the existing ITRs, are still far from being delivered. The conference had been expected to produce text ready for signature by tomorrow, Friday.

But as of Thursday afternoon, there was still no compromise on the hard issues, especially a definition of who would be addressed by the treaty and the potential addition of a general provision on “network security and robustness” and “unsolicited bulk electronic communication.”

Somehow a “miracle” is needed to save the conference, Franc Dolenc of the Slovenian Regulatory Authority said.

The draft ITRs as of 13 December are available here.

The US-based Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) issued a press release in alarm after the late night vote.

“Last night at 1:30am in the morning the fears of many citizens, businesses, NGOs and public agencies were realized as the chairman of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) called for an unexpected vote to have a UN agency, where only governments have a real voice, take on a more active role in governing the Internet,” CCIA said in its release.

“Under no circumstances should the stewards of the Internet be forced to hand over the keys to Internet governance mechanisms to a body where the short-sighted political considerations of morally questionable regimes hold more weight than concerns of the very engineers and programmers who have built and maintained the Internet since its birth,” CCIA President & CEO Ed Black said in the release. “The controversial circumstances that gave rise to yesterday’s Internet power grab should be illuminating.”

Monika Ermert may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

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