[A2k] Reading the US Contributions to the WCIT: Implications for the Open Internet's Future

Seth Johnson seth.p.johnson at gmail.com
Sun Dec 2 18:34:11 PST 2012

This is my analysis of the implications of what we can see shaping up
at the World Conference on International Telecommunications this week,
based on reading the contributions of the US Delegation.

Assessing the Prospects the WCIT Holds for the Open Internet:
What the US Delegation's Contributions Reveal

> http://internetdistinction.com/bricoleur/2012/12/02/whats-really-up-at-the-wcit/

By Seth Johnson, December 2, 2012

(Also at http://telecomtv.com/comspace_newsDetail.aspx?n=49699&id=e9381817-0593-417a-8639-c4c53e2a2a10)

The Question to Ask About the WCIT

The key question that Internet advocates must ask as the ITU updates
its International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs) at the World
Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) this week is:
What is being legitimized by these proceedings?

The discussion surrounding the conference has been largely couched in
terms of a contention between oversight of the Internet by various
multistakeholder organizations more commonly associated with it, such
as ISOC, IETF, ICANN and the regional registries, versus oversight by
governments.  Troubling prospects are raised of binding regulations
being established for the Internet through an international body
backed by global governments, and of repressive governments gaining
cover for their efforts to bottle up the medium under the sanction of
such a body.

The discussion of these issues, however, is a step removed from the
more basic, far more critical consideration of the frame that the
ITU's proceeding will establish -- what it will legitimize. We can gain
much more insight when we recognize that the establishing of an
international forum like this is not only of use for setting rules
that will be mutually honored as binding among the participants, but
also for the simple endorsing of a frame, of a set of terms and
definitions regarding a subject area to which the participants are
subscribing on behalf of their nations.

Focusing on this question only requires examining the text that's
actually being proposed for the WCIT, and because many of the
recommendations of the WCIT participants are now a matter of the
public record, as a result of the partial record originally provided
by WCITLeaks, and more recently the apparently
nearly-current-and-complete archive made available by .NXT, we can now
address this frame, without the distraction of the debate over
contentious questions to which we had been limited before this past

Among these submissions is the following text from the US Delegation
regarding competition, originally proposed publicly by ISOC.  What
makes it notable is the way it presents very generalized language
regarding how to encourage development of communications
infrastructure "inter alia through the fostering of competitive and
liberalized telecommunication markets:"

    MOD USA/9A2/6

    Administrations*Member States shall encourage investment in
endeavour to provide sufficient telecommunication facilities to meet
the requirements of and demand for international telecommunication
services,inter alia through the fostering of competitive and
liberalized telecommunication markets.

This recommendation can be said to represent the most significant
outcome we can expect from the WCIT conference. It is of critical
importance 1) because of its failure to acknowledge how the drive to
develop infrastructure comes out of the way the basic foundation of
the Internet works; and 2) because its generality comports perfectly
well with the failed model of competition manifested by the
telecommunications regime in the US.

Below we offer some comments on the recommendations of the US
Delegation, including its proposed update to Resolution 4 on "The
Changing Telecommunication Environment," to illustrate how the
dynamism of the basic foundation of the Internet is not reflected in
the frame presented by these contributions.  As such, the ITRs as
envisioned by the US will only serve to legitimize the failed concept
of competition promoted by the telecommunications incumbents in the

(Cont'd at link)

More information about the A2k mailing list