The US government has stated that it will not endorse the UN’s telecommunications treaty due to the inclusion of provisions related to internet regulation.
“It is with a heavy heart and a sense of missed opportunities that the U.S. must communicate that it is not able to sign the agreement in the current form,” U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer said at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT).
We’ve been following developments at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) conference pretty closely since proceedings began last week. Delegates from 193 nations have spent the last ten days trying to agree on a revised International Telecommunications Regulations treaty, which has remained unchanged since the 1980s and governs such things as charges between global carriers, international routing and internet traffic between different countries.
Widespread panic has ensued among western nations and some of the world’s biggest internet companies over rumors that certain states may attempt to impose more controls over the way the internet is governed. Nations such as Russia, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia are all believed to want to bring the internet under the control of the UN — a move that could threaten privacy and freedoms on the web, say critics.
Chief among those critics is Ambassador Kramer, who has voiced the opinion several times already that any references to the internet should be left out of the treaty.
“The Internet has given the world unimaginable economic and social benefits during these past 24 years – all without UN regulation. We candidly cannot support an ITU treaty that is inconsistent with a multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance,” said the ambassador in his latest speech.
“These past two weeks, we have of course made good progress and shown a willingness to negotiate on a variety of telecommunications policy issues, such as roaming and settlement rates, but the United States continues to believe that Internet policy must be multi-stakeholder driven.”
“Internet policy should not be determined by member states but by citizens, communities, and broader society.”
Ambassador Kramer is not alone in his rejection of the new treaty. The BBC reports that both the UK and Canada have refused to sign the document, while countries including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden have all expressed concern.
These sentiments were reported late last night following a surprise call by conference chairman Mohammed Nasser Al Ghanin asking delegates for a show of hands in support of a resolution. In a worrying move, the majority of delegates backed the resolution, but apparently the vote did not follow UN protocols, which upset a number of delegates opposed to any treaty.
Al Ghanin is later reported to have said that the last night’s vote was not binding, adding that talks will continue until the conclusion of the conference tomorrow evening.