Troubling Internet Regulations Proposed for WCIT

by on June 14, 2012 · 23 comments

Today, posted a new document called TD-62. It is a compilation of all the proposals for modification of the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), which will be renegotiated at WCIT in Dubai this December. Some of the most troubling proposals include:

  • The modification of section 1.4 and addition of section 3.5, which would make some or all ITU-T “Recommendations” mandatory. ITU-T “Recommendations” compete with standards bodies like the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which proposes new standards for protocols and best practices on a completely voluntary and transparent basis.
  • The modification of section 2.2 to explicitly include Internet traffic termination as a regulated telecommunication service. Under the status quo, Internet traffic is completely exempt from regulation under the ITRs because it is a “private arrangement” under article 9. If this proposal—supported by Russia and Iran—were adopted, Internet traffic would be metered along national boundaries and billed to the originator of the traffic, as is currently done with international telephone calls. This would create a new revenue stream for corrupt, autocratic regimes and raise the cost of accessing international websites and information on the Internet.
  • The addition of a new section 2.13 to define spam in the ITRs. This would create an international legal excuse for governments to inspect our emails. This provision is supported by Russia, several Arab states, and Rwanda.
  • The addition of a new section 3.8, the text of which is still undefined, that would give the ITU a role in allocating Internet addresses. The Internet Society points out in a comment that this “would be disruptive to the existing, successful mechanism for allocating/distributing IPv6 addresses.”
  • The modification of section 4.3, subsection a) to introduce content regulation, starting with spam and malware, in the ITRs for the first time. The ITRs have always been about the pipes, not the content that flows through them. As the US delegation comments, “this text suggests that the ITU has a role in content related issues. We do not believe it does.” This is dangerous because many UN members do not have the same appreciation for freedom of speech that many of us do.
  • The addition of a new section 8.2 to regulate online crime. Again, this would introduce content regulation into the ITRs.
  • The addition of a new section 8.5, proposed by China, that would give member states what the Internet Society describes as a “a very active and inappropriate role in patrolling and enforcing newly defined standards of behaviour on telecommunication and Internet networks and in services.”
These proposals show that many ITU member states want to use international agreements to regulate the Internet by crowding out bottom-up institutions, imposing charges for international communication, and controlling the content that consumers can access online.

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