Internet governance: revising the International Telecommunication Regulations
The ITU’s World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai in December 2012 could signal a shift in the regulatory paradigm on both the international and national levels.
October 2012. At the conference, the ITRs will be renegotiated and the decisions made by governments will help define the international regulatory environment for the internet and telecoms in the 21st century. EuroISPA strongly believes that any amendment to the ITRs should not undermine the success of the Internet, its open, competitive and innovative nature.
EUROISPA – STATEMENT ON THE INTERNATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATION REGULATIONS REVISION
EuroISPA strongly believes that any amendment to the ITRs should not undermine the success of the Internet, its open, competitive and innovative nature.
EuroISPA recommends that:
- The ITRs remains a principle-based, high-level, flexible and technology-neutral treaty
- The ITRs principles comply with the EU acquis and polices, and not impose additional obligation upon operators
- The scope of the ITRs remains limited to telecommunications and does not extend to ICT/Internet
- Content issues, data protection and privacy remain outside the remit of the ITRs
- The role of the ITRs with regard to cyber-security and cyber-crime be limited to endeavor the promotion of international cooperation amongst ITU countries
- The ITRs refrains from granting the ITU regulatory powers, or making it a dispute resolution forum
- The ITRs refrains from making ITU recommendations binding
- The ITRs embraces the multi-stakeholders’ mechanism
- The ITRs promotes pro-competitive, market-driven principles for telecommunication services
- The ITRs avoids fragmenting the Internet by regulating internet peering, routing, IP address allocation and IP based QoS
- The ITRs should not seek to replace the Internet’s interconnection model of voluntarily agreed peering and transit with the regulated “call termination settlement” model used in international telephony
The International Telecommunication Union
The international telecommunication union (ITU) established almost 150 years ago, is a specialised agency within the United Nations that focuses on telecommunications. The ITU allocates global radio spectrum and satellite orbits, develops technical standards to promote interconnection and technical interoperability, and works to improve telecommunications access for underserved communities. The ITU has historically disclaimed any authority to regulate domestic telecommunications, clearly recognising in the ITU Constitution the “sovereign right of each state to regulate its telecommunication.”
While the ITU has a limited scope of regulatory authority over international radio-communication issues, it also adopts recommendations on a wide range of topics and facilitates the adoption of international treaties. ITU recommendations do not have the force of law, but rather set forth suggested regulations and requirements for national regulatory authorities. These recommendations address standardisation, economic and technical issues. By distinction, international treaties are generally binding law for all 193 nations that are signatories to the treaty.
The International Telecommunication Regulations
The International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) is one of four treaty instruments (Constitution, Convention, Radio Regulations, ITRs) of the ITU. The ITRs were adopted in 1988 to establish general principles relating to the provision and operation of international telecom by facilitating global interconnection and interoperability and promoting efficiency and availability of international telecom services. They also provide a general framework for the accounting and settlement of international voice traffic. Due to significant changes, such as the rapid development of new technology, the development of competitive and largely liberalized markets, and the privatization of national telecom service providers, a review process is underway to consider possible revisions to the treaty. Concerned about the implications of the growth of the Internet for national economies, social structures and cultures, some governments and others are now actively reconsidering the continuing viability of liberalisation and competition-based policies.
What could change at the World Conference on International Telecommunications
The ITU’s World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai in December 2012 could signal a shift in the regulatory paradigm on both the international and national levels. At the conference, the ITRs will be renegotiated and the decisions made by governments will help define the international regulatory environment for the internet and telecoms in the 21st century. Some of the 193 member states of the UN would like to see major changes to the treaty, particularly with respect to the Internet as well as wireless, IP-based, and next-generation networks, toward more intrusive economic and other regulation. Other countries, however – notably, the United States – believe instead that the WCIT should adopt only minor changes to the ITRs as necessary to modernise the existing provisions of the treaty, and that new provisions and authorities are unnecessary.
What are the proposals put forward so far?
Recent proposals for amendments to the ITRs show how many UN members see the Internet as a logical extension to the ITU’s jurisdiction, which has come to be described as Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) and convergence (telecom, IT, media). Certain proposals already tabled could comprise significant UN-style intrusion into future commercial and technical flexibility:Expand the definition of telecom to include the processing of information of the Internet
- Adopt rules on international charging arrangements for Internet services
- Adopt a framework for cybersecurity
- Require service providers to disclose routing and other network management information to regulators and/or ITU
- Enable the ITU to distribute domain names and IPv6 numbers
- Shift responsibility for Internet standards toward the ITU and away from existing voluntary technical organizations
- Regulate spam and international roaming
- Make ITU recommendations and standards binding
- Establish the ITU as the dispute resolution forum for the recommendations
Those proposals open also the door to legitimate questions as to the future of multi-stakeholder organizations related to the Internet:
- Should the Internet Governance Forum remain an independent venue for sharing best practices, or come under UN control?
- Is ICANN effective as a multi-stakeholder organization, or should governments have an enhanced role, and/or certain ICANN functions also be performed by the ITU?
- Should policies ensuring unimpeded cross-border data flows be a priority in international trade negotiations?
What could change from a political perspective?
Some of the proposed changes to the ITRs could position the ITU as a supra-national regulator and require signatory nations to enact conforming domestic laws. This would interfere with the legislative role of EU institutions and their ability to democratically and transparently decide on the best way to harmonise the European Digital Single Market. A far more negative consequence would result for the Internet industry whose ability to follow and influence Internet-related decision-making will be inevitably restricted as decision will be taken at ITU level.
Who can participate to the ITU process?
Participation will be limited to representatives of national governments. However, private sector entities generally have opportunities to help inform the policymaking in advance of the conference, such as through meetings with individual governments, participation in working groups or preparatory meetings, and appearances before international or regional organisations.
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