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Internet Governance 19 October 2014

ITU Plenipotentiary 2014 Opens

Sally Shipman Wentworth
By Sally Shipman WentworthVice President of Global Policy Development

The ITU Plenipotentiary Conference opens today, and I wanted to share some thoughts on several of the key issues that we’ll be watching over the next three weeks of debate.  Last week, our CEO, Kathryn Brown, outlined the Internet Society’s high level approach to the Conference and offered insights on the importance of collaboration within the Internet ecosystem. Today, I’ll get into a few more specifics.

An ITU Plenipotentiary Conference is a complex treaty-writing event held every 4 years where governments of the world debate a multitude of issues around how the ITU should function, who should lead the organization, what the ITU should be doing, and how much the ITU’s budget should be. While these are all important issues, the Internet Society’s focus will be on the host of Internet issues that will be considered and on how the decisions made will impact the broader Internet ecosystem.

As of this writing, proposals are still coming in from regions and Member States but we do already have a general view of what some of the key Internet topics will be.  We are working hard to analyze the various proposals from the perspective of an open and accessible Internet and are keeping an issues matrix updated on our website.

In thinking about the Conference as it relates to the Internet, I see several groups of issues that governments will debate:

  • How the ITU does its work – should the work of the ITU be made more inclusive, more transparent and more collaborative?  This issue will be addressed via consideration of access to ITU documents, publications and meetings.  Thus far, we see divisions among countries emerging on this point.
  • What is the ITU’s role in different aspects of the Internet?  This includes discussion of IP-based networks, Internet policymaking, security, Internet-of-things, and IP addressing.
  • What can the ITU do to expand connectivity and spur development?  There is keen interest to build on the success of the ITU Development conference earlier this year  and find ways to bring about the benefits of ICTs.
  • How to address the economic concerns of countries?  Several countries have made proposals to address topics around regulation of over-the-top services, interconnection rates and policies for alternative calling procedures.

Naturally, within any negotiation, there are opportunities for positive outcomes and also areas of deep concern.

While the bottom-up, collaborative model of development has proven itself when it comes to the Internet, not all countries are willing to accept greater inclusiveness and transparency. In some proposals, we see an emphasis on nation-state solutions in areas where greater cooperation would produce more robust results.

The promise of the Internet to connect the unconnected, break down barriers, and transform lives depends on collaboration between all engaged and informed stakeholders. The Internet Society is committed to collaborating with partner organizations in every region of the world to increase access to the Internet to further spur economic and social development.  We look forward to a collaborative and productive dialogue in Busan and a positive outcome for the future of the Internet.

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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