October 01, 2012

The Role of the UN in Regulating IP Communications


On Monday, Forbes.com contributor Larry Downes reported that the UN’s telephone regulatory agency, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), has been trying to tell the Internet world that it is not trying to rewrite the rules of Internet governance. The upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) is thus reportedly not designed to take control of the Internet.

This report highlights a recent speech by ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré at Columbia University; “Contrary to some of the sensationalist claims in the press, WCIT is definitively not about taking control of the Internet or restricting people’s freedom of expression or freedom of speech,” he said.

But despite Touré’s reassurances, leading International Internet engineering groups have all been sounding alarm, according to Downes.

The International Internet Society, which coordinates virtual committees and task forces that maintain the Internet’s core protocols, has been especially vocal in its criticism of ITU maneuvering.  Similarly, wrote Downes, “ISOC has repeatedly urged the U.N. not to interfere with the continued innovation and evolution of telecommunications networks and the Internet.”

Similar concerns have also been expressed by the Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Recently, for example, the Senate passed its version of a joint resolution, condemning the UN’s governance efforts. The resolution urges the Department of State to emphasize the “consistent and unequivocal policy of the United States to promote a global Internet free from government control and preserve and advance the successful multi-stakeholder model that governs the Internet today.”


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In the summer, the House passed the same resolution unanimously.

But the Internet world is not convinced that the UN is not trying to take control of the Web. The WCIT conference later this year in Dubai is expected to consider changes to the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITR), the leading multi-lateral treaty dealing with cross-border communications.

The report suggests ITU and its members are using the conference to consider what role, if any, ITU should play in regulating IP communications.

In his Columbia speech, Touré told the press, “The 1988 ITRs drove a harmonious market ecosystem for investment and innovation and the 2012 ITRs will do the same for the new and future growth of information and communications technologies around the globe.”




Edited by Braden Becker



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