Canada, the United States and a number of other countries have hung up on a global telecom summit.
The countries said Thursday they won’t sign new regulations agreed to at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai because of concern one part could be used to undermine an open Internet.
“With many like-minded countries, Canada endeavoured to reach consensus on new International Telecommunication Union (ITU) regulations that recognized advances in telecommunications while maintaining an open, accessible Internet,” Industry Minister Christian Paradis said in a statement Thursday.
“The final treaty text tabled in Dubai included provisions that threaten these freedoms and, as a result, Canada and many other nations were unable to sign on to these new regulations."
Asked for details, Paradis' office couldn't point to specific provisions in the treaty that Canada objects to. Instead it sent a statement saying Canada did not sign on to the final text "because it contains provisions that would expand the mandate of the ITU into the realm of internet governance and content, and potentially lead towards greater state oversight of the Internet.
"Several ITU member states were attempting to extend the scope of the ITRs to include provisions related to Internet governance such as operational structure, content and cybersecurity. These provisions were in conflict with Canada's support for the private sector-led, multi-stakeholder governance model for the Internet - a model that has provided so many benefits to Canadians."
U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer
told the conference that “we candidly cannot support an ITU treaty that is inconsistent with a multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance. As the ITU has stated, this conference was never meant to focus on Internet issues; however, today we are in a situation where we still have text and resolutions that cover issues on spam and also provisions on Internet governance.”
In a later call with reporters
Kramer said the U.S. objected to four things in the treaty: a reference to "operating agencies," which it took to include Internet service providers, governments and private network operators; a reference to "unsolicited bulk electronic communications,", which it took to include spam. The U.S. fears this could lead to justifying regulation of political speech; "vague committments" that impact network security, which the U.S. feels don't belong in international regulations; and parts that could be interpreted as leading to nations controlling the Internet.
The treaty isn't binding on the countries that do sign it, and within their borders nations can still control communications as they see fit. But Kramer said "it is clear that the world community is at a crossroads in its collective view of the Internet and of the most optimal environment for the flourishing of the Internet in this century."