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UN Telecom Treaty Signed Without U.S. Support
Delegates at a high-profile United Nations conference signed an international telecommunications treaty earlier today, but the U.S. and dozens of other attendees refused to sign it due to the inclusion of Internet-related provisions.
As reported by the AFP, 89 countries signed the treaty, while 55 – including the U.S. – declined.
Starting on Dec. 3, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), an arm of the United Nations, hosted a conference in Dubai for 1,950 delegates from around the world. They worked to revise a treaty known as the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), which has been in effect since 1988 and offers guidelines related to international routing and charges between global carriers, as well as the overall Internet traffic between international network operators.
Some countries at the table, however, submitted proposals that would also give the UN some power when it comes to Internet regulation, which the U.S. and other countries oppose. U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer has been speaking out against the Internet component of the treaty since before the conference started, but more than a week later, they were still included in the draft, prompting the U.S. to say it would not support it.
“We came to this conference with a wide divergence of views. Different countries contend with vastly different market environments, but all understand how critical ICTs will be to their ongoing social and economic development,” conference chairman Mohamed Nasser Al Ghanim said in a statement. “While we did not manage to get universal consensus, I believe we nonetheless achieved a huge milestone in getting such broad agreement, and I am confident that these new ITRs will pave the way to a better, more connected world and a more equitable environment for all.”
In opposing the treaty yesterday, Ambassador Kramer said the U.S.
“cannot support an ITU treaty that is inconsistent with a multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance.”
“Internet policy should not be determined by member states but by citizens, communities, and broader society, and such consultation from the private sector and civil society is paramount. This has not happened here,” he continued.
In a Thursday press briefing at the State Department, a spokeswoman said “we very much regret that instead of working on that latter dossier, instead of focusing on promoting innovation and market growth in the telecom space, this conference has gone in the wrong direction.”
The final version of the ITR is available online.
By Chloe Albanesius, PCMag