The proposed global telecoms treaty that would give national governments control of the internet has been blocked by the US and key western and African nations. They said they are “not able to sign the agreement in its current form” at the end of a International Telecoms Union (ITU) conference in Dubai.
The proposals, coming after two weeks of complex negotiation, would have given individual governments greater powers to control international phone calls and data traffic, but were opposed as the conference had seemed to be drawing to a close late on Thursday.
The move seems to safeguard the role of the internet as an unregulated, international service that runs on top of telecoms systems free of direct interference by national governments.
The US was first to declare its opposition to the draft treaty. “It is with a heavy heart and a sense of missed opportunities that I have to announce that the United States must communicate that it is unable to sign the agreement in its current form,” Terry Kramer, head of the US delegation, told the conference, after what had looked like a final draft was approved.
“The internet has given the world unimaginable economic and social benefit during these past 24 years. All without UN regulation. We candidly cannot support an ITU Treaty that is inconsistent with the multi-stakeholder model of internet governance.”
The US was joined in its opposition by the UK, Canada, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Kenya, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Qatar and Sweden. All said they would not sign the proposed final text, meaning that although a number of other countries will sign it, the treaty cannot be effectively implemented.
“In the end, the ITU and the conference chair, having backed themselves to the edge of a cliff, dared governments to push them off,” commented Kieren McCarthy, who runs the internet consultancy dot-nxt. “They duly did.”
But Access Now, a lobbying group against ITU oversight of the internet, said that “despite all of the assurances of the ITU secretariat that the WCIT wouldn’t discuss internet governance, the final treaty text contains a resolution that explicitly ‘instructs the [ITU] secretary-general to take the necessary steps for the ITU to play and active and constructive role in… the internet.'” It urged governments not to sign it.
( via guardian.co.uk )