NEWS ANALYSIS: The U.S. delegation objects to the inclusion of any terms relating to Internet governance in the proposed World Conference on International Telecommunications treaty causing the U.S. and 55 other nations to refuse to sign.
The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT ) conference, which has been going on for two weeks in Dubai, ended on Dec. 14, when the United States and 55 other nations left the meeting without signing the treaty.
The reason for the walkout of WCIT attendees was wording added to the proposed treaty at the last minute that would expand the scope of the ITR (International Telecommunications Regulations) to include the Internet.
The U.S. delegation, along with several allies including the UK, Australia and Canada, refused to sign the treaty and walked out of the conference before the closing ceremonies.
“The United States today has announced that it cannot sign the revised international telecommunication regulations in their current form,” Ambassador Terry Kramer told a press conference after the meeting.
“Throughout the WCIT, the U.S. and other like-minded governments have worked consistently and unwaveringly to maintain and enhance an environment for success for the international telecommunications and Internet sectors. The United States has consistently believed, and continues to believe, that the ITRs should be a high-level document and that the scope of the treaty does not extend to internet governance or content. Other administrations have made it clear that they believe the treaty should be extended to cover those issues, and so we cannot be part of that consensus,” Kramer said.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who was deeply involved with the WCIT meetings, agreed with the action. “Our global policies must ensure a virtuous cycle of innovation and investment, driven by a free and open Internet. The Internet has thrived over the past two decades thanks to the free flow of data and information, and the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance,” Genachowski said in a prepared statement.
“It is therefore regrettable that discussions at the WCIT turned to the creation of a new layer of international Internet regulation, instead of focusing on the need to spur global growth through the expansion of international telecommunications networks. The U.S. and a substantial number of other like-minded nations simply could not sign such a treaty. We will remain strong and vigilant advocates for a free and open Internet. I thank Ambassador Kramer, FCC staff, and the rest of the U.S. delegation for their hard work and tireless efforts at the WCIT,” Genachowski said.
The decision by the US delegation comes as no surprise following repeated statements by the U.S. and several of its allies that the UN body with responsibility for communications, the International Telecommunications Union should have no role in Internet governance.
During most of the meeting, it appeared that this would be the case, but then in an evening meeting of the WCIT the delegates were asked to vote at the last minute on a draft resolution that would allow countries to discuss international Internet-related technical, development and public-policy issues. The draft that was voted on also included wording calling on governments to foster an enabling environment for greater growth of the Internet.