Google Asks People To Speak Out Against ITU's Attempt To Takeover Internet Governance

from the speak-up dept

We’ve been covering how the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has been moving forward with its plans next month to consider a number of proposals to takeover aspects of internet regulation and governance. There are, of course, a number of different proposals being submitted by different countries. The problem, of course, is that the setup of the ITU is not open to the public, and there are some special interests involved — mainly by countries with oppressive governments looking to use this as a way to gain control over the internet for the sake of censorship, as well as local (often state-run or state-associated) telcos using the process to see if they can divert money from successful internet companies to their own bank accounts. While the ITU likes to present itself as merely a neutral meeting place for all of these proposals, what’s been clear for a while is that the ITU leadership has taken an active role in encouraging, cultivating and supporting some of the more egregious proposals.

Some of this is due to the way in which the ITU leadership views the internet. Some of it is due to an organization that realizes its own mandate is obsolete and it really serves little purpose anymore, so it’s coping by pretending its mandate is much broader, but doing so in a way that shows it has little understanding of the internet other than “something we want a mandate over.”

This seems to be one situation where, in the US, pretty much everyone is aligned against this effort. Politicians and companies — including telcos, tech companies, service providers and more — are all quite worried what an ITU-governed internet would lead to (mostly funds being diverted from innovative companies to stagnant players and a much less open internet). But the US has only one vote in the upcoming WCIT event where many of these proposals will be reviewed. ITU boss Hamadoun Toure pretends that the public has a voice in this process, but ridiculously shut down the public commenting tool on the ITU’s website before telling everyone about it (nice trick, that).

However, if the ITU won’t let the public comment, there’s nothing preventing the public from speaking out elsewhere. That is, after all, one of the amazing wonders of the internet, which the ITU refuses to understand: it’s a tool of communication and expression. Along those lines, Google has revamped its “Take Action” page to urge people to speak out about the whole ITU/WCIT process which will be kicking off on December 3rd.

Also, if you want a simple video that explains what’s happening, the one at is really fantastic. It explains how the internet grew based on an open, bottom up process of technological experts, rather than a closed, top down setup by a large bureaucracy. And we should be concerned when anyone tries to flip that process.

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Companies: google

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Comments on “Google Asks People To Speak Out Against ITU's Attempt To Takeover Internet Governance”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

At the risk of sounding like a n00b:
Sometimes I wonder if these trolls really believe what they’re saying or if they’re just seeking attention. No rational person reading this site would think Mike Masnick is recieving any payment for his posts here. So you’re either not rational, not a person, or you’re not actually reading this site.

Pseudonym (profile) says:

Hang on, hang on...

While I agree that the ITU can’t just upgrade its mandate (possibly without a new treaty), saying that it is obsolete and serves little purpose is flat out wrong.

First off, the ITU manages, and enables cooperation on managing, scarce global resources, such as the cross-border radio spectrum and satellite orbit assignments. Secondly, the international phone network and related standards (e.g. facsimile) are still around and will remain so for some time to come, and these need to be able to inter-operate. The ITU manages those standards. Thirdly, they manage or co-manage the standards for many of the interesting Internet-based standards which affect telecommunication, including VoIP, DSL, ISDN, PSTN/3G, ASN.1, X.509, JPEG, MPEG, and many others. They also oversee global namespaces such as IMSI and ASN.1 OIDs.

Yes, these could be offloaded to other groups. The “EG”s which created JPEG and MPEG, for example, are actually joint committes from ISO/IEC and ITU. However, ITU is one of the faster-acting standards bodies, which gives them a distinct advantage. All too often, de facto standards are only codified after the event. The ITU is very good at getting these things moving so that interoperability can happen sooner than if it was left up to groups like ISO.

Yes, I think this is a power grab, and likely a highly counter-productive one; the last thing the world needs is adversarial standards bodies. That can only end badly.

But it’s wrong to think that the ITU’s mandate is obsolete. On the contrary, it’s more relevant than it’s ever been.

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: Hang on, hang on...

The ITU is often fine at doing things that don’t have a lot of political impact – as you say, technical things like administering radio spectrum and assigning T.35 country codes.

I speak from experience – I was for many years a Rapporteur in ITU-T (I was chair of one of those joint ITU – ISO/IEC committees).

But when it comes to anything with serious political (vs. technical) weight behind it, they’re pushovers – their paymasters are the government Members, and they do as they’re told. ITU is NOT someplace you want in control of your civil liberties.

I signed Google’s petition this morning.

Bas Grasmayer (profile) says:

Intentional misinformation in the video, for what I think is dramatic effect.

They claim Russia jailed Pussy Riot for a YouTube video, but they were arrested before even leaving the scene of their performance.

I agree with the message but intentional misinformation annoys me. It’s terrible enough not to have to mislead people. Besides, this is likely to touch a nerve with most Russian audience, who then will be less likely to take action, perhaps because they’d feel it looks like US propaganda.

Really disappointed by this.

Tim M (profile) says:

ITU-T has tried and failed on a technical basis before

We already have evidence that from a technical perspective the bottom-up pragmatic approach that has created the internet works better than the formal ITU approach. In the late 70’s when TCP/IP protocols were taking off, the ITU-T and ISO collaborated on a competing set of standards which were known as the OSI model and protocols. The “rough consensus and running code” model that characterized the internet approach proved much more responsive and resilient than the ITU-T/ISO work and this is reflected in the technology used today. We’ve already gone through the process of the market choosing a preferred technical solution and the ITU-T solution came up short.

Red Foreman says:

I Will never trust the UN

You want to control the internet, and you want to take away all the guns. I imagine that you will want to take a lot more if you get the two things I just mentioned. The UN runs at the first sign of danger and leaves the people it is supposed to protect at the mercy of their enemies. The UN is self serving. even thou its charter says different. The UN is a FAIL, FAIL, FAIL. Most of the US will fight your plans even to the death. Oppression is still oppression no mater what you call it.

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