ITU head urges moderation for next forum

After December’s cat fight at the World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai, things settled down for a few weeks. But they’re about to heat up again.

In May the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) will hold another conference, the World Telecommunications Policy Forum in Geneva, which will directly raise Internet questions fought over at the WCIT.

In a run-up to that meeting, ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Toure this week addressed  a working group on Internet-related public policy, a transcript of which has been posed on the ITU Web site.

Western nations didn’t want to see anything related to the Internet in the WCIT treaty, which they argued deals with telecommunications. Their fear is that some countries want to bring Internet control from largely standards-based organizations to the government-dominated ITU, an agency of the United Nations.

However, the majority voted to include some references, which sparked Canada and others to refuse to sign the document.

“It was disappointing in Dubai to see attempts to derail the conference by those who were persuaded that Internet control was an issue for discussion, when it was not,” Toure told the working group.

“Indeed, it seems increasingly problematic to even say the ‘I’ word,” he added, “which is strange, when we all recognize that the Internet is part of the lives of everyone here – and should rightly be part of the lives of everyone on the planet.

“And the Internet cannot and does not work without telecommunications infrastructure.”

But, he added, it is important that ITU member states should consult with all stakeholders in their national delegations – presumably including consumer groups and telcos – with regard to their positions.

The Genva forum will discuss three Internet-related resolutions passed in Dubai. Although the forum deals with public policy rather than a treaty, it will likely be another venue in which there will be more attempts to talk about Internet control.

Switzerland is known as a peaceful country, but things won’t be peaceful at the forum.