U.S. and Canada propose WCIT-12 plenary to limit changes

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The United States and Canada say in a joint Nov. 26 proposal sent to the International Telecommunication Union ahead of the planned treaty-writing conference set to meet starting Dec. 3 in Dubai for the revision of regulations controlling international telecommunications that the conference should agree at the onset to limit the scope of changes.

In the proposal (.pdf), the two countries say the World Conference on International Telecommunications 2012 should begin by holding a plenary session during which member nations would agree that the existing definition of "telecommunication" in International Telecommunication Regulations should remain unchanged and that the ITRs should apply only to "recognized operating agencies."

Amb. Terry Kramer, head of the U.S. delegation to the conference, recently said that if the ITRs are changed to cover any "operating agency," then "anybody that's got cloud-based computing, and private Internet networks, potentially" would be suddenly covered by the ITRs, and "we're not comfortable with that."

Keeping identical the definition of "telecommunication" comes from concerns that the ITRs could be expanded to include Internet regulation.

The proposal comes amid a stepped up level of concern about the conference. A European Parliament resolution (.pdf) approved Nov. 22 says the ITU "is not the appropriate body to assert regulatory authority over either internet governance or internet traffic flows," and Google has launched an anti-WCIT-12 campaign that warns "some governments want to use a closed-door meeting in December to increase censorship and regulate the Internet."

The ITU, for its part, has attempted to downplay those concerns, noting in response to the European Parliament resolution that it doesn't have regulatory power over networks. "Networks are regulated by national governments, not by ITU," Richard Hill, an ITU attorney, said in a blog post.

As for concerns about censorship, Paul Conneally, head of the ITU communications and partnership promotion division, says in another blog post that Articles 33 and 34 of the ITU Constitution already spell out the rights of the public to use international telecommunications as well as noting that ITU members already have the right to cut off telecommunications in accordance with their own, domestic law.

For more:
- download the proposal (.pdf)

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