US Ambassadors Refuse To Sign ITU Treaty In Dubai
December 13, 2012

US Ambassadors Refuse To Sign ITU Treaty In Dubai

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

The US, UK and Canada have announced today that they will not be signing the ITU´s Internet Treaty in its current form. According to the BBC, the US said signing such a treaty would allow for government regulation of the Internet.

"It's with a heavy heart and a sense of missed opportunities that the US must communicate that it's not able to sign the agreement in the current form," explained the US Ambassador to the World Conference on International Communication (WCIT), Terry Kramer.

“The US has consistently believed and continues to believe that the (UN treaty) should not extend to Internet governance or content,” added Kramer, as cited by the AFP.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has been meeting with members of the UN in Dubai since December 3 to revise some outdated communications regulations. The last time these regulations were updated was 1988 and mostly pertain to telephones. Critics of these proposed regulations have argued that placing regulatory control in the hands of governments could signal the end of a free and open Internet and place an undue burden on larger countries who have thriving Internet markets.

According to Kramer, the latest treaty proposal included some language which sought to “insert governmental control over Internet governance."

Ambassadors from Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Kenya, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden said they needed to consult with their governments before they could proceed. As such, they would not be able to sign the treaty on Friday.

During the conference, Algeria, China, Saudi Arabia and Sudan had submitted a proposal which called for equal rights for all governments to control Internet address and domain names. This proposal was also put on hold.

"Negotiations are done," said an ITU spokesperson writing to the AFP. "US, UK and Canada have announced they will not ratify. Others speaking now, several in praise."

Since the US and 10 other countries have decided not to ratify the treaty, Kramer said little will change.

As it stands, governments are within their rights to control the Internet in their own countries. He said he wanted to send a message to the ITU that America does not want to have another governmental body controlling what these nations can do with their own Internet.

"Countries have national sovereignty rights, so they can do what they want,” said Kramer. "What we don't want is a set of global agreements where countries say this treaty gave us the right to impose conditions."

In an interview with ZDNet, Kramer answered the question of “What happens next” in regard to the Internet and if there will now be 2 Internets: One closed, one open.

"We hope that doesn't happen here,” he said. "On a second Internet, anything is possible.”

"It's not going to be an easy task to set up a different standard, very difficult to pull off. We need to continue to do this outreach so we don't inadvertently allow a balkanization of the Internet."

Despite these setbacks, the ITU´s secretary-general Dr. Hamadoun Toure said any country willing to sign the treaty will benefit from it, saying the treaty offers "increased transparency in international mobile roaming charges and competition.”