The World Conference on International Telecommunications, or WCIT, is a conference held by the United Nations' International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
The most recent WCIT is the 18th conference, held in Dubai from December 3rd to December 14th, 2012. Government representatives from 178 nations around the world will be working to renegotiate the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITR), an information and communications treaty that outlines rules for how traffic should flow between telecom networks and how to calculate charges for traffic between different international carriers interfacing with one another. The treaty has not been updated since its signing in 1988. Of the goals of the updated treaty, the ITU has said that it hopes to ensure "the free flow of information around the world, promoting affordable and equitable access for all and laying the foundation for ongoing innovation and market growth".
Any changes to the treaty must have unanimous support, as the ITU does not traditionally use a voting system. However, the ITU's Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure noted to the BBC that if there were serious disagreements to drafting a new treaty, a majority vote may be required.
A much discussed topic before and during the meeting was the threats of a change in internet governance structures, from regulation under a U.S.-based group like ICANN to a more global organization. Nonetheless, Hamadoun Toure has stated that it is the ITU's goal to work with ICANN rather than take all responsibilities from it.
WCIT & Google
Google was vocal about their opposition of ITU control of the internet and launched a Take Action campaign in response. The Take Action website stated, "A free and open world depends on a free and open Internet... But not all governments support the free and open internet.." They note that forty-two countries filter and censor content, and says of the December ITU meeting that, "Some of these governments are trying to use a closed-door meeting in December to regulate the internet... Proposed changes to the treaty could increase censorship and threaten innovation." Google's main criticisms of the ITU are that it is a "secretive" organization with confidential conferences and proposals, which are open only to governments and not to the general public. Google states that, "Internet policy should work like the Internet -- open and inclusive."
WCIT & Individual Governments
Other opponents include the European Parliament, who published a resolution stating that such a change could "negatively impact the internet, its architecture, operations, content and security, business relations, internet governance and the free flow of information online", as well as the U.S. government. The U.S. ambassador to the conference, Terry Kramer, said in a statement that, "The US is concerned that proposals by some other governments could lead to greater regulatory burdens being placed on the international telecom sector, or perhaps even extended to the internet sector... The United States also believes that existing multi-stakeholder institutions, incorporating industry and civil society, have functioned effectively and will continue to ensure the health and growth of the internet and all its benefits."
On December 2nd, 2012, the US government issued a statement in support of ICANN, signed by Lawrence E. Strickling, Administrator of NTIA, Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the FCC, and Phillip L. Verveer, U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy of the State Department. They stated: "The Internet’s decentralized, multistakeholder processes enable us all to benefit from the engagement of all interested parties. By encouraging the participation of industry, civil society, technical and academic experts, and governments from around the globe, multistakeholder processes result in broader and more creative problem solving. This is essential when dealing with the Internet, which thrives through the cooperation of many different parties... Our commitment to the multistakeholder model is based on the fact that transparency, inclusion and participation are the 21st century standards governing discussions related to modern communications. This is a view shared by many around the world and was most recently reiterated by a statement of civil society members and groups from around the world who participated in the “Best Bits” pre-Internet Governance Forum (IGF) meeting held earlier this month in Baku, Azerbaijan. The U.S. Government wishes to lend its support to the spirit of the recommendations contained in the statement."
The Russian government took a difference stance, stating in a November 17th, 2012 letter that, "Member states shall have equal rights to manage the internet, including in regard to the allotment, assignment and reclamation of internet numbering, naming, addressing and identification resources and to support for the operation and development of basic internet infrastructure."
WCIT & ICANN
ICANN was officially invited to participate in the ITU's World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) 2012. Some believe that ICANN's participation will help organizations, governments, and internet leaders collaborate in a more transparent matter, in direct opposition to criticisms about the ITU's closed-door policies.
ICANN President and CEO Fadi_Chehadé said that he planned to arrive early to collaborate and communicate with attendees. He also laid to rest allegations of an inharmonious relationship between ICANN and the ITU by stating, "There is no war between the ITU and ICANN. There may be confusion, by some members of the community, that believe our roles may be confused; but our roles are clearly separate and well-defined."
WCIT & WCITLeaks
The ITU does not openly publish submissions from their meetings and leaves it up to individual states to decide what material they wish to release. In response, WCITLeaks, a website similar to WikiLeaks but related exclusively to the ITU and WCIT, aims to bring transparency to the UN organization by encouraging those in possession of documents to publish them anonymously.
- Google attacks UN's internet treaty conference, BBCNews.com. Published 22 November 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
- European Parliament warns against UN internet control, BBCNews.com. Published 22 November 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
- Google says ITU is 'the wrong place to make decisions about the future of the Internet', Engadget.com. Published 22 November 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
- US resists control of internet passing to UN agency, BBCNews.com. Published 7 August 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
- Take Action, Google.com.
- On Eve Of Start of The ITU Meeting In Dubai, The US Makes Issues A Statement In Support of ICANN, TheDomains.com. Published 2 December 2012.
- Russian Federation, WCITLeaks.org.
- Cerf Insists on Transparency and Multi-stakeholder Governance: ICANN’s Chehade and Crocker Bring New Season to WCIT, DotGreen.org. Published 30 November 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
- Fadi Chehadé Explains the Decision to Attend the WCIT Opening Ceremony in Dubai, YouTube. Published 28 November 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2012.