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ITU and Internet Governance
ITU: "Members Free to Publish any Documents" - And They Will, I'm Told
Friday, 20 July 2012 10:25

First Look. Despite government doubts, Touré looking to open. Credible rumors are that several countries will release all the WCIT documents even if the ITU Council refused to do so.  This is a smart move to defang opposition to the WCIT treaty, coming in force from both right and left in the United States. Opposing a powerful treaty being conceived behind closed doors is easy for anyone. It will be far harder to rally support against the actual provisions, nearly all of which are cloaked in obscure diplomatic language. Most will be so abstract no one can be sure what they mean or why to oppose them. Few will read all the documents because they are incredibly boring.

     Sarah Parkes of ITU emailed me “all Member States are free to publish any documents they see fit as part of their national consultation process.” Emphasis in the original. She added “all ITU members have always been free to share any of the WCIT docs as part of their own consultation process, entirely as they see fit." In the U.S., Conservative FCC member Rob McDowell is leading the charge on the right. Cynthia Wong, director of the Center for Democracy & Technology's Project on Global Internet Freedom, has brought together civil society and consumer advocates. The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution and Vint Cerf himself wrote an NY Times oped.

    Touré’s primary concern is getting consensus on the new treaty, with the details less important. The treaty establishes that the ITU should set the rules for the net. They have neither the power nor the staff to enforce the regulations. To the extent they will “rule” it will be indirectly through national governments. The latter lets them claim “We won’t be regulators” although the whole exercise would be meaningless if they weren’t confident many nations would follow the ITU lead. 

   The ITU is also opening up to direct participation by non-governmental civil society organizations. This hasn’t been publicized but

“It should be noted that all civil society organizations, of an international nature and who are working on issues related to information and communication technologies are entitled to join the ITU as members. Indeed several such additional entities were welcomed into ITU this year, and their membership fees were waived; this was supported and endorsed by the ITU Council. “

is official policy.

  ISOC, The Internet Society, is already at the table. I urge anyone concerned with Internet governance to immediately join ISOC and the ITU 2012 mailing list. It’s free to become a member. Then go here. Check the box subscriptions, members only, and there ITU 2012.

Here's the official release;

Landmark decision by ITU Council on proposal for public consultation and
open access to key conference document

Online public platforms will be created to enable multi-stakeholder consultation

Geneva, 13 July 2012 – During its annual session in Geneva, the ITU’s governing body, the Council, debated the issue of making ITU documents publicly available, especially those submitted to treaty-making conferences such as the forthcoming http://www.itu.int/net/pressoffice/images/clink.png); background-color: transparent; background-position: 100% 0%; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; ">World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) which aims to review and update the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs).

The forty eight Member States that make up the ITU Council also discussed the need for open and online consultations with key communities, such as civil society stakeholders.1

In his remarks to Council during the debate, ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré noted that “the world is changing, in large part thanks to the growth in telecommunications facilitated by the ITU, and we need to adapt to that changing world. As we have always done since our foundation in 1865”.

Dr Touré noted that “all ITU members have full access to all WCIT-12 documents and can share them within their constituencies.” As well as proposing that ITU should hold open consultations on WCIT-12, he encouraged all Member States to do so too. Dr Touré stressed that while all documents are available in ITU’s six official languages, it is nevertheless “crucial for Member States to prioritize translation into other national languages, so that national level consultations, such as those currently underway in the Netherlands and Kenya, can encompass all citizens and ensure the widespread engagement of civil society in the important issues that are being debated in the run up to WCIT-12”.

Following various proposals moderated by the Chairman of the Council, Mr Ahmet Çavuşoğlu, Head of the Department for International Affairs of Turkey’s Information and Communications Technologies Authority, it was agreed that the latest version of the main conference preparatory document will be made publically available on the ITU website within the coming days. This document is often referred to as TD64, and it gathers together more than 450 contributions that members have submitted during the preparatory process of WCIT-12.

Additionally, the Council unanimously agreed that a publicly accessible page will be established on the WCIT-12 section of the ITU website, where all stakeholders can express their opinions on the content of the latest version of TD64, or any other matter related to WCIT. This open access for inputs was applauded by the Council as an important way for the ITU membership to be able to note the various viewpoints that surround the conference. The Chairman of the Council encouraged all Member States to give due consideration to these inputs in their preparation for WCIT-12.

Referring to the importance of national consultations, Dr Touré said that he encourages “more of this kind of action at the national and regional level as we move forward. As we know, the ITRs in 1988 set the stage for the information society. And I am absolutely convinced that WCIT-12 will set the stage for the knowledge society.”

1 It should be noted that all civil society organizations, of an international nature and who are working on issues related to information and communication technologies are entitled to join the ITU as members. Indeed several such additional entities were welcomed into ITU this year, and their membership fees were waived; this was supported and endorsed by the ITU Council.


Russia to ITU: Regulate Every Video Website
Sunday, 24 June 2012 14:41

Russia submitFrom Jennie Bourne's http://TINC.co to China Baidu and the U.S. YouTube, every video web site in the world would have to meet ITU treaty enforced requirements. Hamadoun Touré June 18th officially submitted a Russian proposal to "with the ultimate aim of establishing requirements for OTT services rendered by content providers over the networks of infrastructure operators." (Below, complete from the invaluable WCITleaks.

    This is not yet official policy ITU and could be blocked. Russia, working with China and others, has a very powerful presence at ITU, so this may well pass. The likelihood is that the first few years of ITU activity on video sites would be kept deliberately non-threatening. They could, perhaps, specify the metadata format for video sites to use to indicate whether captions for the deaf are included. What the longer range regulations would be is totally speculative at this point. 

    Already there are active moves to look at video sites in Study Group 11, where the standards would be set. ITU delegates do not necessarily reflect the positions of their governments or employers, although rarely do they vote otherwise. It's thus suggestive to look at the leadership of SG 11. The Chairman is Wei Feng of Huawei, based in Britain. The vice-chairs are Jane Humphrey of Ericsson, from Sweden; Karou Kenyoshi of NEC, based in London; Andrey Koucheriavy of Russia's Komset; and Hyeong-Ho Lee of ETRI in Korea. 

    As usual in ITU, there are no representives of civil society or Internet users. 

The U.S. Position: Don't Alter the Rulers of the Net
Friday, 11 May 2012 02:56

U.S. wants to keep control but do little. The spirit is deregulation, except where U.S. corporate interests make demands, such as counterfeit handbags and Hollywood movies. At Whitehouse.gov is the U.S. proposal, cleverly entitled Ensuring an Open Internet. (full text below) The "multi-stakeholder basis," in place, Ambassador Verveer, Admin Strickling and Advisor Danny Weitzner believe, is effective in "assuring that all who have an interest in the Internet can have a voice in its operation." The claim is diplomatic rhetoric even if the goal may be sensible: "Hands off the Internet."

    Researching this, I found most authority over the net is in the hands of the U.S. government and corporations. Even the "independent" agencies, like ISOC/IEC, have deep institutional involvement. ISOC has a Verizon lobbyist as head of the elections committee and also a board member from Comcast.  But the authority is rarely invoked, leaving the net essentially unregulated in most respects. Many think this an extremely desirable solution, wanting to keep governments as far as possible from net regulation. Most of the governments of the world disagree, partly in resentment of even nominal U.S. hegemony. Those who want to get things done, such as more equitable charging for Internet peering, are looking to give more power to the ITU in Geneva, a U.N. agency.

    The war is on. From an insider comes word, “WCIT will almost certainly approve a new management structure for the Internet. It seems unstoppable.”  The answers aren't easy and perhaps the U.S. will succeed in efforts to block all significant change. Maybe that's the right way to play things, but informed insiders tell me the U.S. "no compromise" policy is likely to fail. My comments to the State Department ITAC include "Bringing down the cost of broadband to make it more affordable is a primary goal of many of the leaders of the ITU and an important part of the agenda. I think the U.S. should take the lead, rather than being dragged kicking and screaming to living up to our principles."

    I'll be reporting much more, but for now here's the White House position from http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/05/02/ensuring-open-internet

Landmark Absurdity at ITU
Sunday, 15 July 2012 14:07

Making public document everyone already has is no great achievement. Good work at ITU is being discredited by politician’s tricks. It’s not “a landmark decision” to release publicly a document already effectively public. The draft proposals are at Jerry Brito’s invaluable site, WCITLeaks.org for everyone to see. 30 civil society organizations called for opening the discussion about the new Internet treaty. The U.S. government, the Internet Society, and media around the world including the conservative Wall Street Journal agreed.
    Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré joined the call for publishing the documents but was overruled by the governments of the ITU Council. There are two likely reasons this failed. Most people believe that many governments have an agenda they want kept secret. In the U.S., cold war fears about Russia color this debate. It’s also possible that they want to restrict the official documents to those paying $30,000 or more to be sector members. The ITU is perpetually short of funds and scrambles to build membership dues. Even the executives at ITU hate a system that restricts information mostly to affluent corporations but their salaries are dependent on raising funds.
   Rumors abound that several governments will make the documents public anyway. With 190 nations and over 700 corporate members freely sharing the documents inside their groups, probably 10,000 people have easy access, including all members of the U.S. ITAC. It’s impossible to keep this secret.
    Meanwhile, everyone including reporters is thanking WCITLeaks.org.

Touré in Canada: Our stakeholders are corporate
Tuesday, 19 June 2012 01:29

No civil society. Touré promises below "a light regulatory hand" if the ITU becomes an international regulator at Dubai. He's actively trying to distance himself from strong governments such as Russia and China, although he maintains close ties. He also makes clear how close he is to corporate sponsors. For example."At WCIT, we have to move beyond the rhetoric and the fear of the unknown, and roll up our sleeves to tackle these issues head-on, together. This means bringing together governments and industry players from around the world, for constructive debate. This is happening in part through an ITU Working Group that is preparing draft texts for the WCIT. In addition, I am consulting industry members around the world. That is a major part of why I am in Canada this week - to meet with and listen to our industry members."

Which corresponds to the crucial funding of ITU by corporate sponsors. Here's his speech from Canada, before the ITU political battle heated up.

For the record: Dave to State Department on reducing Internet costs.
Monday, 30 April 2012 23:47

My comment: Time to get serious about reducing consumer costs, including royalty/patents. By apparent accident, I wound up on a U.S. State Department advisory committee dealing with ITU and international regulations. I was never told the proceedings were confidential or asked to keep them so, but I am treating them that way. However, I believe in the spirit of the FCC ex parte rules. Those advocating to government should do so publicly. I am not reporting on the committee, but am making public what I personally advocated.
   In the context of the ITU discussion of moving the Internet forward internationally, I advocated taking the lead in making it more affordable for all. In particular, I pointed to the high and controversial patent/royalty costs, which I believe look to raise the costs of wireless, especially LTE and LTE Advanced, brutally. A mobile phone now costs $25 and a low end smartphone/MiFi about $100, heading to $30-50 in a few years. If the royalties claimed by Motorola, Apple, and literally dozens of others were enforced, that would add $20-50 to the cost. Microsoft alone wants $5 from every Android connection despite an almost insignificant part of the “intellectual property.”
    Getting the poor of the world connected requires bringing down the price as far as possible. As hardware costs come down with Moore’s Law, making royalties truly “reasonable” is the single most important step to bringing down the cost of the gear. ITU leader Haolin Zhou once told me in Geneva “the best standards have no royalties.” A good interim goal is that the total royalties should be 5-10%. On something like LTE, with literally hundreds of patent claims, that means very, very few companies have contributed enough invention to justify more than a fraction of 1%.

ITU Opens High-Level Patent Round Table to Civil Society
Friday, 13 July 2012 10:19

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
Touré working to allow participation. The October 10th Geneva event on "Innovation-stifling use of intellectual property" is open to "any individual or company from a country which is a member of ITU who wishes to contribute to the work," spokesperson Sarah Parkes writes me. Dr. Touré’s initiative to open all the WCIT proceedings was defeated, although some key documents are being made public. "Participation is open to ITU Member States, ITU Sector Members, Associates and Academic Institutions and to any individual or company from a country which is a member of ITU who wishes to contribute to the work. The event is free of charge but no fellowships will be granted. Follow-up enquiries should apparently be addressed to tsbworkshops@itu.int" I asked about the role of civil society because the press release (below) spoke only of "a high-level roundtable discussion between standards organizations, key industry players and government officials." Geneva hotels are expensive, so those without corporate sponsors might consider the hostels, which are remarkably clean. An advantage to the city is that chocolate is considered a food group and occupies a whole isle in the last store I visited. Glad to see more evidence the ITU is opening up. This is an important issue.

Here's the original release.

Touré's June 6 speech
Sunday, 17 June 2012 17:52

The U.S. Congress passed a unanimous resolution against the U.N. takeover of the net and Vint Cerf issued a strong warning. Hamadoun Touré responded this is all "frankly ridiculous. ... we are certainly not ready to make a grab for global domination." He's certainly right they "are not going to send in the blue helmets of the UN peacekeepers to police IXPs!" But in the rest of the speech he talks about numerous changes from above. They will not happen without strong action, somehow co-ordinated.

What does he really mean? Here's his speech for you to decide. Remember he is a politician. Here's Touré's speech on June 6, after the U.S. Congress and numerous reporters weighed in about ITU power.  http://www.itu.int/en/osg/speeches/Pages/2012-06-06-2.aspx