Internet comes under the scrutiny of the telecommunications union

internet comes under the scrutiny of the telecommunications union

But the swiss diplomat is concerned that some countries want to bring the open infrastructure of the network under stricter control: their lever could become a world conference of the international telecommunications union (ITU) in dubai.

On the agenda of this world conference on international telecommunications (WCIT) of 3. Until 14. December: a new version of the international telecommunications regulations (ITR) from 1988. This agreement has made an important contribution to the liberalization of telecommunications, explains kummer. But "no agreement at all is also a solution" – because in dubai, the ISOC diplomat expects "lots of proposals that would lead to more regulation".

The proposals for the WCIT submitted by the member states of the UN specialized agency were not supposed to be made public – but activists have published a number of documents at the address wcitleaks.Org put on the net. Some initiatives are concerned with more technical security for the internet. Others apparently aim to keep out unpopular opinions and campaigns.

Russia, for example, has proposed exceptions to unfettered access to telecommunications infrastructure in cases where access is intended to "interfere in the internal affairs of other states and undermine sovereignty, national security, territorial integrity and public safety.". This could then be used to legitimize restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly, explained the center for democracy and technology (CDT) in washington.

Kummer questions whether the ITU has the authority to deal with network infrastructure rules at all. "The internet is different from telephony and has completely different basic requirements," he says in an interview with the dpa news agency. The internet does not function with line-based communication, but with "packet switching", the transport of many data packets in a decentralized network. "And it’s not about communication between two participants, but about participation of everyone."

Robert mcdowell of the u.S. Federal communications commission (FCC) warns of a "new global bureaucracy" within the ITU framework. The previous concept of a "multi-stakeholder model" with a multitude of players in the self-organization of the internet infrastructure has been preserved, he says. Mcdowell is concerned about whether this can be preserved, however, because "the forces advocating regulation have so far been far more energetic and better organized than those advocating a multi-stakeholder approach," he wrote in an op-ed for the wall street journal. And the regulation advocates needed only a simple majority of the 193 member states at the ITU conference.

In germany, the december conference has so far received little attention. The issue is very complex and very non-transparent, says netzpolitik blogger markus beckedahl, chairman of the board of the association digitale gesellschaft. "We are trying to draw attention to this, but it is not as easy as in the acta debate."The digital society has co-signed an open letter from many organizations to ITU secretary general hamadoun toure, calling for civil society participation and the publication of all documents in preparation for the conference.

"We definitely want to maintain open networks with free access to all content for everyone," says kummer. "What we certainly don’t like is a move back to less liberalization, less transparency and more regulation."

ISOC, which works with more than 6,000 individuals and 130 organizations from more than 170 countries to develop internet infrastructure, can participate in the negotiations as a sector member of the ITU, but has no say in the process. Kummer is pinning his hopes on the public on the net. And this can be quite effective, as the failure of the acta copyright agreement in the eu has shown: "internet users are no longer prepared to accept what governments negotiate and impose on them behind closed doors."

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