The odds of a “second-class Internet” where major content providers like Google refuse to send content to strictly regulated countries have been increased with the approval of a global telecommunications treaty, says the head of Canada’s Internet registry.
The updated international telecom regulations agreed to by the majority of countries at last week’s World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) has split the world, says Byron Holland, CEO of the Canadian Internet Registry Authority (CIRA), who was in Dubai as part of the 26-member Canadian delegation. CIRA oversees the .ca domain.
Canada was one of a number of countries that refused to sign the treaty because of some “egregious” resolutions, he said.
“The conference fractured around what I would call traditional cold-war lines,” he said, with the addition of China and Middle East and Africa taking a stand against a free and open Internet, and looking to regulate it and have far more state control.”
What he and others fear is that resolutions passed by the majority will end up allowing the politically-controlled International Telecommunications Union (ITU) – a body of the United Nations – to oversee governance of the Internet. The ITU
The Internet is largely governed by a group of non-governmental bodies including the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (ITEF).
“This is a battle in an ongoing conflict,” Holland said of the WCIT outcome. The World Telecommunications Policy Forum, an ITU policy conference to be held May 14-16, 2013 in Geneva “will be the next skirmish,” he predicted. According to the ITU’s Web site it will deal with “international Internet-related public policy matters.”
The ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference in 2014 in Korea “will certainly be a major battleground in this ongoing conflict for oversight and control over the Internet,” he added.
If things go badly, he warned some content providers may not want to service certain countries where the rules and regulations and cost of doing business will be prohibitive. The result, Holland said, is there will be two Internets: one open for some nations, the other tightly regulated where citizens have less access to information.
The goal of the Dubai conference was to update regulations governing the interconnection of national telecommunications systems. Countries like Canada and the U.S. insisted the Internet has nothing to do with those international telecom regulations (ITRs). But official and unofficial statements from certain nations led them to believe before the conference that there would be a movement to bring the Internet into the regs.