World Telecom Policy Forum: Healing The Split Or Fueling A Telecom Policy “Cold War”? 14/05/2013 by Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch 2 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Governments, sector members of the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and a number of civil society groups are gathering in Geneva for three days this week to talk internet politics at the 5th World Telecom Policy Forum (WTPF). The non-binding forum is the first opportunity to take the temperature of the international telecom policy community since the failed World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT) last December. At the same time, it is seen by many as the stepping stone to the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference and therefore a platform to position oneself with regard to future internet-related public policy and the future role of states in the digital world. The forum will discuss the adoption of six non-binding opinions, four of them focussed on the promotion and support of internet infrastructure, namely: the transition to the new internet protocol IPv6; the need for more internet exchange points, especially in developing countries; and a commitment by governments towards fostering the build-up of broadband networks (all draft opinions are here). A pre-WTPF strategic dialogue event Monday was completely dedicated to “broadband rollout.” To give opinions promoting these kinds of “practical, informed solutions” is well in line with the Obama administration’s declared post-WCIT strategy to listen to and engage with its WCIT opponents. Assistant US Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Lawrence Strickling and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Sepulveda wrote in their joint pre-WCIT posting that these measures could help to address concerns of countries that feel “the Internet revolution is leaving them behind” or that they were “left out of existing Internet governance structures.” The nearly 60-member US delegation has come “to engage in constructive dialogue on Internet-related public policy issues” they wrote, and “made it a priority” to make institutions like the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) more welcoming to all governments. But warning cries against potential “power grabs” from governments and the ITU have not been calmed down. US media reports have run stories of yet another edition of the “UN Internet Takeover.” ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Touré himself fuelled the rhetoric, speaking about a “new cold war” and a war between the North at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona earlier this year. Touré’s 50-page WTPF summary report which accompanies the six draft opinions includes the hot issues of “global principles for the governance and use of the Internet” and “the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance,” which are dealt with in the draft opinion number five, “Supporting Multi-stakeholderism in Internet Governance”. The nature of the “multi-stakeholder” model and the future role of the ITU are the most controversial issues for WTPF, especially as the Russian Federation – which will bring another of the larger delegations to Geneva – has decided to revive its call for a stronger grip of national governments on internet governance. (For ITU member states’ written contributions, see here) A potential nationalisation of resource management aspects and intervention into net governance was put on the table by Russia during the WCIT in December last year. It is this kind of controversy that casts some light on the discussions to come at the plenipotentiary conference of the ITU in 2014 (PP14), as it will have to decide on the ITU program and mandate for the coming four years. Major bodies like the EU Regulators (CEPT) are already in the middle of preparing their positions for PP14 and also the World Telecom Development Conference 2014. Civil society representatives heavily criticised Touré`s “framing of the multi-stakeholder debate” as wrong. Best Bits, a group of NGOs, wrote in a pre-WTPF short statement there was a lot more to do to make the WTPF an open and transparent process. Civil society members of the Informal Expert Group – the group that prepared the WTPF – including Swedish/US researcher Avri Doria, warned that Touré’s report favours a return to a governance structure in which the multi-stakeholder model was supplanted by the primacy of governments. The IEG members also wrote that Touré blurred the “line between the ITU’s role in elements of the telecommunications infrastructure supporting parts of the Internet, which lies within the organization’s traditional mandate, and a role involving online content, which falls outside of the ITU’s mandate.“ With the back and forth on multi-stakeholder and enhanced cooperation (Opinion 6) – another concept that the international community could not agree on for years, Milton Mueller, founder of the Internet Governance Project and professor at Syracuse University, warned that the multi-stakeholder model might be void of substantive meaning by now. Started “to limit the power of nation-states to interfere unduly with the use and operation of the Internet,” it has become a label that is nothing more than a preservation of a status quo against a more ITU-heavy system. “Why should anyone support TMM (the multi-stakeholder model) if it is devoid of any substantive meaning regarding the role of states and freedom from governmental control?,” Mueller asked. “TMM inspires support only if it is presented as a better alternative to a form of governance that is authoritarian, repressive, ineffective and unrepresentative of Internet users’ interests.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Monika Ermert may be reached at email@example.com."World Telecom Policy Forum: Healing The Split Or Fueling A Telecom Policy “Cold War”?" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.