ITU Plenipotentiary Conference: Internet Governance Diplomacy On Display05/11/2014 by Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch 2 CommentsShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (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)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.The much belaboured takeover of the internet by the United Nations International Telecommunication Union again has not taken place. Instead, ITU member states gathered at the Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, South Korea, this week rather smoothly passed a set of internet-related resolutions that will, once the closing plenary adopts them, preserve the limited status quo of involvement of the UN organisation responsible for telecommunication and radio frequencies in internet-related public policy issues. New resolutions adopted tackle, for example, the tracking of flights as a response to several airplane catastrophes, a resolution on gender mainstreaming in information and telecommunication technology and on “Assisting Member States to combat and deter mobile device theft.”The 20 October to 11 November Plenipotentiary, which is held every four years to decide administrative issues and set the broad work plan of the ITU, saw a “completely different atmosphere” than it experienced during the World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT) two years ago, ITU official Preetam Maalor told Intellectual Property Watch.“Less WCIT and more WPTF spirit” had also been the hope from a Swiss delegate before the meeting, as another split in the membership had been feared. WPTF, the World Telecom Policy Forum, had tried to get the ITU back on track on consensus after the highly controversial WCIT.Extreme Positions Ironed OutMaalor said during the 51 hours of discussions the Working Group of the Plenary found compromises for what had looked like rather extreme proposals from different ends. The biggest discussion erupted over a proposal from India that favoured undertaking a series of studies that in effect pushed for a localisation of networking.One study would “explore the development of naming and numbering system from which the naming and numbering of different countries are easily discernible,” another one “recommend a system that ensures effectively that traffic originating and intended to be terminating in the same country remains within the country.”The ideas would equal a “redesign of existing telecommunications networks or protocols” and an expansion of the “ITU mandate,” New Zealand’s delegation warned (as posted by ISOC, the Internet Society) in the debate summarising a lot of criticism shared by many, including civil society representatives from India.When withdrawing the proposal in the Working Group of the Plenary, the head of the Indian delegation, Ram Narain, said the intention of the proposal had been to address existing international differences on the governance of the internet that have arisen in recent years, alluding to the ongoing fight about what many have criticised as a privileged role of the US in internet governance.The Indian proposals as well as a proposal from the Arab group, which demanded the ITU to start discussing a legal instrument to protect internet users against mass surveillance by intelligence agencies, can perhaps both be seen as fallout from the revelations of Edward Snowden.Adding privacy and anti-surveillance to the ITU agenda was highly contentious, but US Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda argued steadfastly that how commercial or state actors collect, use, and distribute people’s information was “fundamentally a content issue and fully outside the remit of the ITU.”The Russian delegation, whose head, Communication and Media Minister Nikolai Nikiforov, explicitly pointed to Snowden’s reports about the Syrian internet blackout being a result from a NSA glitch, rekindled another old idea about making the ITU a registry for IP addresses in competition with the existing regional internet registries (RIRs).Internet Exchanges, More Open Working Group, and Cooperation All the extreme positions were erased in the classical diplomatic tit-for-tat negotiations (the whole set of internet related resolutions has been published by ISOC Bulgaria).A bigger mandate for the government-led ITU in internet governance, no, said northern countries. But a green light was given “to continue to undertake activities on international Internet related public policy issues within ITU mandate, including within the Council Working Group-Internet, in collaboration and cooperation with relevant organizations and stakeholders, as appropriate, with special attention to the needs of developing countries” as it is introduced in the updated resolution 102.Also the two big regional blocs – industrialised and developing countries – agreed on an acknowledgement that governments, too, are “stakeholders” and “continue to play a very important role in the expansion and development of the internet, for example through investments in infrastructures and services.”A brand new dedicated resolution on promoting internet exchanges and guiding principles for them could be agreed upon and was withdrawn by Argentina and other Latin American proponents in exchange for including strong references on ITU work on internet exchanges in the updated internet resolutions 101 and 102.High interconnection costs were accepted as a problem, but regulating internet exchanges at a global level could be dangerous, warned civil society groups. Sovereignty over country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) explicitly was introduced based on the text of the Tunis Agenda of the 2003-2005 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). This was a fix requested by those not completely at ease with the US-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which has technical oversight of the domain name system.Yet, even Iran’s delegate promoted the idea that member states participate in the multi-stakeholder work at ICANN. Kavous Arasteh, Iran’s representative in the ICANN’s governmental advisory committee, asked colleagues to “positively and constructive participate in the activities” ongoing with regard to the reform of the IANA oversight. IANA refers to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which manages changes in the internet. This very reform had been a hot issue in the debates about who should govern what parts of the internet for years.Cooperation with the other relevant bodies was added in several places of the internet resolutions, too, and the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) made it half way to the opening up of the ITU Council Working Group on Internet Governance. While some European member states had favoured to completely open these in fact, make them more multi-stakeholder-oriented, the final result allows for open online and open in-person consultations.Documents shall also be available. But given the caution with which the resolution for the Plenipotentiary to allow document access had been handled practically – the negotiation documents were only made available after they were finally agreed upon – there is still work to do.“In our opinion we made some steps forward,” a Polish delegate who helped to coordinate the CEPT positions told Intellectual Property Watch.But there was more work ahead, and some unfinished controversies at the Busan Plenipotentiary ending Friday illustrate that differences will remain: member states for example were unable to agree on a definition of ICT in the first place, the very matter on which they are set to jointly work.New Secretary General – Chinese Twitter Star The newly elected Secretary General, Houlin Zhao had no competitor for his candidacy. He will follow outgoing Hamadoun Touré ending the last of the maximum two terms at the end of December. Zhao already started promoting cooperation with ICANN and other internet organisations when speaking at recent internet conferences, like ICANN 50 in London this summer.Zhao, whose candidacy was supported by China, had been vice secretary general and director of the ITU Telecommunication Standardisation Bureau (TSB). His unanimous election must illustrate that member states were satisfied with his work, he said during his first press conference last week. To show that he is up to internet speed he was to answer questions on Twitter today.Other newly elected officials include Malcolm Johnson of United Kingdom (Deputy Secretary-General of ITU), who is followed as Telecommunication Standardisation Bureau chair by Chaesub Lee of Korea, François Rancy of France was elected director of ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau, and Brahima Sanou of Burkina Faso was elected director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau.For more information see also this ITU PP14 dedicated site http://linguasynaptica.com/. 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