Those treaties haven’t changed in more than two decades, and there have been plenty of technological innovations in that time including some of the innovations that make possible a global Internet.
Different countries will have the opportunity to submit and vote on various proposals regarding telecommunications and the Internet during the conference.
The ITU has been less than transparent about proposals submitted thus far, but documents leaked to WCITleaks.org suggest that some nations, including China, Russia and parts of the developing world, want the UN to take a greater role in Internet governance.
At the moment, the Internet is governed in what’s called the “multi-stakeholder” model, with a collection of various organizations contributing to the maintenance of the network.
Changing that model, warned the United States’ Ambassador to the ITU, would put at risk the very stability of the Internet.
“The United States. . .believes that the 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 of its benefits,” Ambassador Kramer was quoted as saying in a State Department release.
That release continued: “The U.S. will carefully monitor and study the proposals submitted by other countries. The U.S. 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 a result the U.S. would oppose.”
Some privacy advocates have warned that some proposals submitted to the ITU would have a chilling effect on free speech a fear that Kramer addressed head-on.
“We will not support any effort to broaden the scope of the ITRs to facilitate any censorship of content or blocking the free flow of information and ideas,” he said.
The United States has a commercial interest in preserving the Internet’s status quo: many of the most important non-governmental organizations involved in Internet regulation, including ICANN, have close ties to Washington.
Over the next few months, the U.S. will be organizing a team of “experts from U.S. government agencies and the private sector, including industry and civil society” to represent American interests at the conference. Ambassador Kramer himself worked at Vodafone, a UK-based telecom multinational, for 18 years.