21Vianet 2600Hz 3Com 3GPP 3Leaf 4G 4G licensing 5G Africa Alcatel Shanghai Bell Alcatel-Lucent Alibaba Android antiitrust Apple APT Satellite Arete AT&T auction backbone Baidu Bain bandwidth base station Battery broadband cable CBN CCP censorship Cfius China China brands China FTTH China hi-tech China market China media China Mobile China Mobile Hong Kong China Science China Telecom China Unicom chips Ciena Cisco civil society CNNIC Communist Party convergence copyright CSL cybersecurity Datang drones Egypt Elop Ericsson EU Facebook FDD LTE FDD-LTE feature phones Fiberhome FLAG forecasts Foxconn FTZ Galaxy S3 Google GSMA GTI handset handsets Hisilicon HKBN HKIX HKT HKTV Hong Kong HTC Huawei Hugh Bradlow Hutchison India Infinera Innovation Intel internet investment iOS iPad iPad 2 iPhone IPv6 ITU Japan KDDI KT labour shortage Leadcore low-cost smartphone LTE MAC MAE Mandiant market access Mediatek Meego Miao Wei Microsoft MIIT mobile broadband mobile cloud mobile data mobile security mobile spam mobile TV mobile web Motorola music MVNO MWC national security NDRC New Postcom Nokia Nokia Siemens Nortel NSA NTT DoCoMo OTT Pacnet Panasonic patents PCCW piracy PLA politics Potevio price war private investment Project Loon Qualcomm quantum Reach regulation Reliance Communications Ren Zhengfei Renesys RIM roaming Samsung sanctions Scania Schindler security shanzhai Sharp SKT Skype smartphones Snowden software Sony Ericsson spectrum Spreadtrum standards startups subsea cables subsidies supply chain Symbian tablets Tata Communications TCL TD LTE TD-LTE TD-SCDMA Telstra Trump Twitter urban environment USA US-China vendor financing Vitargent Vodafone New Zealand WAC WCIT Web 2.0 web freedom WeChat WhatsApp Wi-Fi Wikileaks Wimax Windows Mobile WIPO WTO Xi Guohua Xiaolingtong Xinjiang Xoom Youku YTL ZTE

Entries in ITU (1)


So, what exactly happened at WCIT?

The short answer is this map, which shows the voting outcome. Broadly, the US, western Europe and friends refused to vote for the new ITR (international telecom regulations) treaty. Russia, China, most of Africa and the Arab states voted for it. Or as The Economist would have it, the return of the Cold War factions.

The biggest loser is the ITU itself, the official UN agency for international telecoms.

The immediate reason is because its old-style, behind-closed door, governments-only approach doesn’t work in the 21st century. 

Longtime ITU observer Keiren McCarthy writes:

In the end, the ITU and the conference chair, having backed themselves to the edge of a cliff, dared governments to push them off. They duly did. And without even peeking over, the crowd turned around and walked away.

Quite a few people - like TechDirt and a US delegation member – forecast that the organization will continue on in a fragmented, politicised way. A bit like the UN itself.

Tech Dirt goes on to say the main reason for the impasse is that

…here is a world in which there are two competing visions for the future of the internet -- one driven by countries who believe the internet should be more open and free... and one driven by the opposite. Whether or not the ITU treaty is ever meaningful or effective, these two visions of the internet are unlikely to go away any time soon.

As for the specifics of the treaty (full text here), the NGO Access Now provides this analysis

The Good

None of the key definitions in the treaty like “telecommunications” or “international route” were expanded to include the internet. Problematic language giving states a right to know how traffic is routed, opening up the door to widespread surveillance and necessitating costly changes to internet architecture was also rejected…

The controversial ETNO [European Telecom Network Operators] proposal, which would have subjected the internet to the “sending party pays” billing model of traditional telephony also didn’t make it into the treaty.

The Bad

A new provision, that requires states to “ensure the provision of Calling Line Identification -- an undefined term but one that certainly includes user data -- made it into the treaty. Worse still, this provision can be modified by future ITU-T standards, which could dangerously expand this treaty to include the internet.

The Ugly

Article 5B calls on governments to prevent “unsolicited bulk electronic communications” which could apply to the internet.

Finally, despite all of the assurances of the ITU Secretariat that the WCIT wouldn’t discuss internet governance, the final treaty text contains a resolution that explicitly “instructs the Secretary-General to take the necessary steps for the ITU to play and active and constructive role in... the internet.”

It also says “all governments should have an equal role and responsibility for international internet governance” – a reference to the Russian and Chinese demand that the US surrender its official influence over ICANN.

We shouldn’t weep for the ITU.  These days it is little more than the global registry for technical agreements hammered out in other industry bodies. It will still play that role. It has plenty of time to adjust to its new role as arena for geopolitical contest.