Washington, DC — The latest battle over who governs the Internet is taking place in Dubai this week. As the world’s governments meet at the World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT), hosted by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), it is already clear that the Internet governance system is under pressure. The legitimacy of this governance system and the Internet’s future success will be affected by these debates, according to a new report from OTI that examines critical issues at the WCIT and how they should be considered at future forums.
The report spotlights seven of the most controversial issues at stake at the WCIT, an inter-governmental meeting to negotiate a revised text of the International Telecommunication Regulations treaty (adopted in 1988), in the future. They include the ITU’s role in Internet governance and cyber-security, Internet traffic routing, human rights and transparency. The report argues the ITU’s role has been limited and should continue to be as part of the broader multi-stakeholder process.
Unlike the Internet Governance Forum or the Internet Engineering Task Force’s, WCIT is limited to government officials and its process has not been sufficiently inclusive and transparent and is therefore not the right forum to address concerns over open standards, affordable access, universal service, and human rights.
“We must use the momentum to develop a long-term positive strategy that outlines how the existing institutions of the multi-stakeholder system can be scaled up to represent Internet users worldwide and how they can participate and make their voices be heard,” said Tim Maurer, OTI program associate and author of the report. “This will be the test for the system’s legitimacy and the Internet’s future success.”
The ramifications of this conference depend on a number of factors: first, whether the scope of the treaty will be expanded to cover the Internet and which proposals will become part of the text. Some governments, for example from Africa, have submitted proposals which highlight the struggle to provide affordable access. Others, such as Russia and China, aim to expand governmental control over the Internet which could adversely affect human rights, fundamental freedoms, and how the Internet works.
To read the full report, click here.
For additional information, see Rebecca MacKinnon’s article “The United Nations and the Internet: It’s Complicated”