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Updates from WCIT

Periodic Updates

Issue-specific Updates

Periodic Updates

Friday December 14th | Final update from WCIT

After two long weeks, WCIT has concluded.  We have listened carefully to the proposals and discussions amongst Member States and now, it is time to look forward and take the lessons learned to advance the growth of communications worldwide.  Clearly, some countries are facing a range of complex development challenges in bringing about the full benefits of the Internet to their citizens.   As we have for over 20 years, the Internet Society remains fully committed to playing a key role to bring about solutions that are consistent with a global, interoperable, and open Internet that benefits everyone.

Below is a short summary of some key issues for the Internet Society:

  • The issue of scope remains somewhat ambiguous and it will be important to monitor actual implementation of these regulations to determine whether some countries apply the treaty provisions to a broader group of providers than were previously subject to the 1988 treaty.
  • The treaty explicitly states that “these Regulations do not address the content-related aspects of telecommunications”.
  • References to ITU-T Recommendations do not give those Recommendations mandatory status.
  • Treaty definitions of Telecommunications and International Telecommunications were not changed.  New term ICT was not included.
  • Numbering provisions in the ITRs are limited to references to “numbering resources specified in ITU-T Recommendations” and do not extend to naming, numbering and identification resources.
  • Quality of Service provisions are open to interpretation and their impact will depend on the interpretation of scope.
  • Member States are given responsibility to ensure the security and robustness of international telecommunications services.
  • Member States are given responsibility to prevent the propagation of unsolicited bulk electronic communications.  
  • Accounting Rate principles for international telecommunication services do not apply to commercial agreements.
  • Resolution (non-binding) entitled “To foster an enabling environment for the greater growth of the Internet” selectively quotes from the WSIS Tunis Agenda and seems to expand the role of the ITU rather than encouraging greater participation in the multistakeholder Internet governance model as envisioned by the WSIS.
  • Resolution (non-binding) entitled “International telecommunication service traffic termination and exchange” opens the issue of private commercial agreements for international telecommunications traffic and suggests a role for Member States.  It also calls for further work of the ITU-T in this area.

Sunday December 9th

The weekend was spent in a plethora of ad hoc groups the result of which is many  square brackets (see the last report for a description of the process and of square brackets).
As described in earlier posts, the plenary session on Friday was a difficult discussion amongst Member States both in regards to a perceived lack of progress as well as a persisting disagreement about the scope of the treaty - will the treaty extend beyond telecom to include the Internet or not?  As of Sunday, this question is unresolved.   
There have been references to a "compromise text" which aims to reflect the views of a few member states and/or regions. This was mentioned in Friday's plenary and has led to many corridor discussions, rumors and a few press articles.  As of Sunday evening, this proposal has not been formally tabled at the Conference. 
Despite the fact that the threshold issues of scope and application have not yet been solved, the ad hoc groups continued negotiation over the weekend.  Below is a brief summary of those discussions: 
  • Security: divergence of views on whether security/robustness/resiliency are appropriate topics for the ITRs.
  • Routing:  How/whether to include text to allow countries to know how their traffic is being routed.  
  • Accounting Rates:   Basic question of the extent to which the ITRs should regulate commercial agreements between carriers, including pricing.  
  • Spam: question of how to reconcile the concerns of countries that spam is an economic/consumer protection issue and the concerns of countries that content issues are not appropriately addressed in the ITRs.
Ad hoc groups met all weekend on these topics to try to consolidate text.  There continues to be lack of consensus on these topics, reflected in the square bracketed text going to committee. 
Tomorrow is going to be a busy day - the ad hoc groups will report back to the Working Groups. Those, in turn, will report up to Committee 5.  Finally, the plenary will meet tomorrow night for 3 hours.  We expect most of the work to continue in plenary after tomorrow evening rather than returning to committees.
Once again, some sessions are being webcast.  Best we can tell, these are Committee 5 meetings and full plenaries.  

Friday, December 7th

After a week of various meetings in Dubai, working groups will be continuing tonight and through the weekend.  The issues are currently divided up amongst multiple ad hoc groups, informal groups and the two main working groups which has created some confusion about how to address issues that are, by definition, overlapping. As issues are discussed, areas where there is not consensus get [bracketed] and moved up to the next level of meeting.
Friday afternoon's plenary session was a fairly difficult discussion among Member States who aired concerns that not enough progress was being made.  A compromise position from a number of countries or possibly regions was referenced in the plenary meeting.  This raised concerns by other delegations that a new submission should not be introduced at such a late stage. Since we haven't seen the treaty text yet and so we don't know how it will impact the discussions. 
Working group and ad hoc meetings will continue all weekend on topics related to routing, cybersecurity, accounting rates, interconnection agreements, special arrangements, etc.  The issues related to the scope of the ITRs, including explicit references to the Internet, remain unresolved.
Finally, the ITU site went down on Wednesday evening and there is a possibility of further attacks this weekend.  ISOC has made a statement about this issue that may be found here. Though we still have considerable concerns about this conference and the potential impact of treaty proposals on the Internet, we also recognize that steps forward in terms of participation have been made including the webcast, transcripts and ITU reporting.

Issue-specific Updates

WCIT, WSIS and Internet Governance

WCIT is not about the Internet, but about the underlying telecommunications infrastructure. WSIS, after years of negotiation, came to the conclusion that Internet Governance is a broad term, applying to activities as diverse as coordination of technical standards, operation of critical infrastructure, development, regulation, and legislation, among others. Equally important, WSIS made it clear that Internet governance is not restricted to the activities of governments and that many different types of stakeholders have a role in defining and carrying out Internet governance related activities.
There are various issues that are being discussed during WCIT that fall under the WSIS definition of Internet Governance. These issues include routing, security, charging, QoS, spam, naming and addressing, a reference to ICTs . Some of these proposals favour national control over critical Internet resources, which could fundamentally change the Internet architecture and ultimately lead to its fragmentation. In other instances, solutions are proposed that neglect the technological difference between the Internet and the telecommunication networks.
These issues are best discussed in a multistakeholder framework, benefitting from the expertise of all stakeholders involved in Internet governance activities, in accordance with the WSIS outcome.

National control and/or management of Internet resources

An underlying unresolved question is whether the scope of the ITRs will incude the Internet going forward.  Apart from any unintended consequences of making telecoms treaties apply to the Internet, there are some explicit proposals for national control of Internet resources.
The Internet's technology does not, inherently, recognize regional political boundaries. It can be deployed in ways that keep a number of control points within a jurisdiction, which is what would be required to be able to implement the some of the proposals.  This is not in accordance with basic best practices for deploying a robust, resilient Internet infrastructure that supports heavy usage on a regular basis, or withstands natural disasters.  Haiti and Japan both experienced significant natural disasters and their Internet infrastructure withstood them to a certain degree.
The Internet Society has consistently held the position that the Internet is not the same as a telecommunication network -- this difference in best practices for deployment is a key component of that position.  If the WCIT treaty outcome did require nations to undertake obligations for all Internetworking in their nations, we would ultimately see more networks deployed in a similarly nationally-controlled way, favouring national control over robustness and resilience.

Security [Cybersecurity]

Security [Cybersecurity] is a complex issue with many different aspects that requires the multistakeholder community to work together to address protection, stability, and reliability of the communications infrastructure:
to promote cooperation and collaboration among all stakeholders
to enhance the integrity of the international telecommunications network 
to establish mechanisms to promote robustness
The Internet model of developing collaborative standards and policies in an open and broad based consensus process by international experts is one of the best vehicles for achieving real security. This model has been successful in improving cybersecurity with the deployment of secure virtual private networks (VPNs) and encryption protocols, DNS Security Extensions (DNSSEC), secure protocols for data exchange and a more secure routing system through the development of security enhancements to Boarder Gateway Protocol (BGP). This model of consensus and international cooperation will instill confidence and create an environment of trust in order to address the many challenges of improving cybersecurity.
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