U.S. WCIT delegates: Congressional opposition to Internet regulation made big impression

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Congress' unanimous opposition to oversight of the Internet in the International Telecommunication Regulations played a major role in the refusal of the United States and other countries to sign the revised ITRs at the Dec. 14 conclusion of a treaty-writing conference, said David Gross, a member of the U.S. delegation.

The World Conference on International Telecommunications 2012 conference in Dubai ended with the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and much of Europe opposed to the treaty.

Congressional unanimity left an deep impression on the delegations because the rest of the world knows the U.S. Congress more for its intractable disagreements, said Gross, the former coordinator for international communications and information policy at the State Department. He spoke Dec. 19 on a panel in Washington, D.C., hosted by Georgetown University's Center for Business and Public Policy.

Officials around the world "look very carefully at what's happening here on Capitol Hill," he said. Representatives from other countries knew during the talks that the United States could not agree to include the Internet in the scope of the ITRs because of how clearly Congress had spoken, he said.

Gross noted that major conferences tend to build energy and excitement that dissipates when they end. With the WCIT-12, he expressed optimism that work on the issues in play will endure now that some stakeholders have realized their commonalities for the first time.

The United States and European countries "were extraordinarily aligned" on the issue of expanding the scope of the ITRs, Gross noted, as were Western members of the business community, civil service organizations and academia.

One of his fellow panelists, Jacquelynn Ruff, the vice president of international public policy and regulatory affairs at Verizon Communications, predicted that many countries with emerging economies will join the opposition to control over the Internet as their technology develops in the next few years. Much of Africa, for example, supported the treaty.

For countries without much of a stake in Internet issues, the treaty, which mainly dealt with traditional telecommunications, probably seemed harmless, Ruff said.

Michael Wack, a State Department counselor for international communications policy, also said that as countries grow more technologically savvy, they will be less interested in international governmental involvement with Internet issues.

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