The ITU WCIT – a Springboard for a Larger Debate on Internet Governance
The ITU WCIT – a Springboard for a Larger Debate on Internet Governance
The ITU WCIT – a Springboard for a Larger Debate on Internet Governance

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    The World Conference on International Telecommunications will
    convene this December to revise the International Telecommunication Regulations
    (ITRs). Certain proposals to revise the ITRs would adversely impact the open
    Internet.  PK and many others believe that
    any revision of the ITRs should not stray from their basic purpose – to
    facilitate international telephone calls.

    Many countries proposals to revise ITRs to cover the
    Internet are a result of the fact that these countries believe that there is a
    need for public policy setting at the international level to deal with various
    issues impacted by the Internet. While the need for such international dialogue
    may be necessary, the ITU would not be the forum to deal with many of these
    issues. Thus, any conversation about the ITRs and ITU happens within the larger
    context of issues called Internet governance issues.

    Every year these issues are discussed at a convening called
    the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). This year’s IGF is taking place in Baku,
    Azerbaijan. I was there for part of the IGF and also for a civil society
    convening called Best Bits that happened just before the IGF. Here are my

    WCIT and beyond

    Much of the discussion I was part of focused on the upcoming
    World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). The predominant
    message from these discussions was clear: The WCIT is the springboard for a
    larger conversation that would address issues beyond the scope of the WCIT.
    These issues include increasing broadband access, high roaming rates, and
    cybercrime. These issues are of particular interest to countries in the global
    south where resource constraints and inequities or inadequacies in current
    systems have resulted in lack of broadband access to too many of their
    citizens, high roaming rates, and inadequate responses to various issues such
    as cybercrime.

    These inequities need to be addressed in other forums – both
    national and global. The discussions and solutions need to involve every
    stakeholder – governments, civil society, and business. Of these stakeholders,
    civil society is particularly vulnerable to being treated as less than equal.
    Effective participation of civil society must involve not merely representation,
    but also the ability to influence decision-making processes.

    Civil society

    While civil society is not a homogenous group with no
    differences of opinion, there is broad agreement on many aspects of Internet
    governance. The differences in perspectives among civil society organizations
    from the global south and global north stem from the greater digital divide in
    the global south and the resulting differences in advocacy of southern civil
    society. Other differences also stem from the greater power and influence of
    northern governments and institutions on Internet governance. However, these
    differences in perspectives are less in magnitude than the issues that civil
    society stands together on.

    • Civil society
      organizations universally demand the right to participate in policy-making
      processes that affect the Internet. This ability to participate should
      include the ability to influence the outcome. This sentiment was reflected
      in the joint statement drafted by civil society at Best Bits and submitted
      to the ITU.
    • Civil society universally
      desires the protection and promotion of citizens’ free expression rights
      and opposes content controls that jeopardize these rights.
    • Civil society broadly
      agrees on the importance of promoting net neutrality and is opposed to
      proposals that would impose costs on those sending content over the
      Internet or would privilege certain communications over others.

    The gatherings in Baku, Azerbaijan set the stage for
    continuing this debate and carrying it forward beyond the World Conference on
    International Telecommunications.