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Hamadoun Toure, ITU secretary general

Back in the room: disaster averted at WCIT as Russian proposals withdrawn

Posted By TelecomTV One , 11 December 2012 | 0 Comments | (0)
Tags: ITU WCIT ITRs Dubai

It was 'handbags' at the WCIT as those plans to 'take over the Internet' emerged. Then the proposals for sweeping new rules that would have given governments cover to interfere with content (which they already do) were withdrawn yesterday by its prime mover, Russia. By I.D. Scales.

The proposals - essentially the agenda for control of the Internet that the ITU bureaucracy has been saying didn't exist -  were leaked over the weekend. They were a joint effort by Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Egypt (since retracted) and the United Arab Emirates and they basically advocated rules that would have given governments control over both content and numbering/naming, say observers. The document which hadn't yet been tabled for the conference has since been withdrawn. 


What followed was either a confusing panic or a careful choreography. I always instinctively favour the first option.


Reports say that the US and its close allies then threatened to walk out.  The Secretary General of the ITU, Hamadoun Toure, then asked the Russian-lead party to withdraw, saying that the document could wreck the conference if introduced.

The document was then withdrawn.


US lead negotiator Terry Kramer, has since denied that he threatened to leave the conference, but the Dow Jones journalist who claims he got the quote direct from Kramer stands by his story.That's about it. 


I suspect there may have been a difference of interpretation here - when does a frank outline of options turn into a threat? Kramer presumably framed those 'options' forcefully as he has been doing consistently from the beginning of the process (see - U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer on WCIT-2012 in Dubai).


And while walking out is certainly an option for the US and its allies (and a veiled and deniable threat to do so leaked to a respected news source is undoubtedly a useful move in extreme circumstances), staying in the process and hopefully blunting any ITRs that appear to threaten the Internet will be seen by Kramer as by far the best option (any fool can walk out  -  it takes skill to both threaten and then stay in and keep arguing). 


In the end, whatever the new ITRs look like, Kramer has full political support (as he says in the video) to tick the box and not ratify any or all of them. So the question is not so much, "how will new Internet-affecting ITRs hit the US and its allies?" (not at all, since they won't take any notice of them), but by what degree might they fragment and set back the growth and effectiveness of the global Internet if they are adopted by the nations pushing for them? 

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