U.S. refuses to sign WCIT-12 treaty; controversial document gives ITU more Internet control

As the WCIT-12 conference in Dubai moved into its final two days, the U.S. delegation announced that it will not sign the revised international telecommunication regulations (ITRs).

"The United States cannot sign revised ITRs in their current form," delegation leader Ambassador Terry Kramer told reporters at a special press conference Thursday evening.

A number of issues led the U.S. delegation to its decision, Kramer explained, among them differing views about spam, cybersecurity and Internet governance.

"Other administrations have continually filed out-of-scope proposals that ultimately altered the nature of the discussions and the ITRs," Kramer said.

Those proposals included filing of a new article, 3A, specifically to discuss Internet issues, as well as a surprise proposal submitted, and ultimately withdrawn, by the UAE and supporting countries including Russia, that attempted to address Internet governance in a way that shifted more authority to individual governments.

The U.S. refusal to sign does not scuttle the new treaty. There is likely enough consensus between other countries to proceed on Friday, Ambassador Kramer said. However, "Some countries may take reservations as a way of expressing opposition to it."

The U.S. delegation was the first to say it would not sign the treaty, but several other countries spoke up following the announcement--including the United Kingdom, Costa Rica, Denmark, Sweden, Czech Republic, New Zealand, Canada and Poland--to express their reservations concerning signing the revised ITRs as is.

"They were either acknowledging they would not sign or that they had significant reservations, or had specific areas that they would not sign," Ambassador Kramer said.

The fractious talks at WCIT-12 and the unsatisfying end to the conference lead to a number of possibilities for the Internet's future. One scenario is the creation of "two Internets," with one guided by the multi-stakeholder organizations ICANN and IANA, and the other operating under ITU or individual countries' governance.

Ambassador Kramer acknowledged that in some respects that structure is on its way to existing, as China and North Korea's walled-off Internets show. However, he stressed that a multi-stakeholder approach involving government, private sector and civic interests was the best route to take.

"We've gotta be pragmatic," he said. "No one government can solve fundamental issues on the Internet."

Meanwhile, the ambassador said the United States will stand firm on its contention that the ITRs need not rope the Internet into their scope of influence.

"Our end goal here is to create an environment where we can say there's going to be a success for the Internet and telecom," he concluded. "If you can't say an ITR [is] going to help with its success, you shouldn't put it in."

For more:
- ITUProPortal has this story on last night's controversial vote

Commentary: At ITU's Dubai conference, what's not being said about Internet freedom rings loudest

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