The final draft resolutions at the World Conference on International Telecommunications include the word ‘Internet,’ which some countries wanted to avoid

Confusion over WCIT resolution

The final draft resolutions approved by governments at the World Conference on International Telecommunications include ways of avoiding bill shock when roaming and making it easy for travelers to find emergency phone numbers.

But a resolution passed late Wednesday recognizing the Internet as a central element of the infrastructure of the information society that has generated confusion.

According to the conference Web site, the resolution also recognizes the importance of broadband capacity to facilitate the delivery of a broader range of services and applications, promote investment and provide Internet access at affordable prices to both existing and new users.

The conference in Dubai, organized by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and attended by countries from around the world, is attempting to update international telecom regulations (ITRs). The final treaty is scheduled to be approved Friday.

The concern from some groups comes from two directions: First, some countries – including Canada and the U.S. – didn’t want the word ‘Internet’ in the treaty, arguing the ITRs are technical only. The worry is if the Internet is mentioned in ITUs, eventually some governments may find a way to limit their citizens’ access to it.
 
Second, the Internet resolution apparently came in the form of a vote, and votes were supposed to be avoided in favour of consensus.

The Internet Society, which works on setting open standards on Internet infrastructure and is at the conference, issued a statement saying it is “concerned about the direction that the ITRs are taking with regards to the Internet.  

“The Internet Society came to this meeting in the hopes that revisions to the treaty would focus on competition, liberalization, free flow of information and independent regulation – things that have clearly worked in the field of telecommunications. Instead, these concepts seem to have been largely struck from the treaty text.  

“Additionally, and contrary to assurances that this treaty is not about the Internet, the conference appears to have adopted, by majority, a resolution on the Internet. Amendments were apparently made to the text but were not published prior to agreement.”

At the time of publication of this story (9 a.m. Toronto time Dec. 13) the Canadian government hadn’t issued a statement about the resolutions.

Another resolution says member countries should foster co-operation among carriers to order to avoid inadvertent roaming charges in border zones. That would be of interest to Canadians living near the U.S. border who have complained of sometimes getting dinged with roaming charges because their signals are being picked up by American cellular towers.

Canadian cellular users may also appreciate a resolution calling on countries to develop competitive roaming prices. Industry Canada is already looking at that.

EXTRA READING
Here are the latest articles on the conference from The Economist  and and a report on earlier goings-on from Slate.
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