The Internet Isn't Broken; So Why Is The ITU Trying To 'Fix' It?

from the because-it-wants-to-break-it dept

We’ve been talking about the ITU’s upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) for a while now, and it’s no longer “upcoming.” Earlier today, the week and a half session kicked off in Dubai with plenty of expected controversy. The US, the EU and now Australia have all come out strongly against the ITU’s efforts to undermine the existing internet setup to favor authoritarian countries or state-controlled (or formerly state-controlled) telcos who want money for internet things they had nothing to do with. The BBC article above has a pretty good rundown of some of the scarier proposals being pitched behind closed doors at WCIT. Having the US, EU and Australia against these things is good, but the ITU works on a one-vote-per-country system, and plenty of other countries see this as a way to exert more control over the internet, in part to divert funds from elsewhere into their own coffers.

Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the ITU, keeps trying to claim that this is all about increasing internet access, but that’s difficult to square with reality:

“The brutal truth is that the internet remains largely [the] rich world’s privilege, ” said Dr Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the UN’s International Telecommunications Union, ahead of the meeting.

“ITU wants to change that.”

Of course, internet access has already been spreading to the far corners of the planet without any “help” from the ITU. Over two billion people are already online, representing about a third of the planet. And, yes, spreading that access further is a good goal, but the ITU is not the player to do it. The reason that the internet has been so successful and has already spread as far as it has, as fast as it has, is that it hasn’t been controlled by a bureaucratic government body in which only other governments could vote. Instead, it was built as an open interoperable system that anyone could help build out. It was built in a bottom up manner, mainly by engineers, not bureaucrats. Changing that now makes very little sense.

Besides, does anyone really think that a process that requires the companies who successfully innovated to funnel money to corrupt governments and/or corrupt state-controlled telcos is going to magically lead to greater investment in internet growth? If so, I’ve got a prince in Nigeria with 53 $ Million US waiting in a bank all for you.

Neelie Kroes, the VP of the EU Commission and in charge of the EU’s Digital Agenda tweeted simply:

The internet works, it doesn’t need to be regulated by ITR treaty. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

And that’s the thing. The internet works just fine. The only reason to “fix” it, is to “break” it in exactly the way the ITU wants, which is to favor a few players who have done nothing innovative to actually deserve it.

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Comments on “The Internet Isn't Broken; So Why Is The ITU Trying To 'Fix' It?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

the ITU isn’t trying to fix the Internet at all. what it is trying to do is to get politicians that are so gullible as to go along with trying to preserve their old business models and control the way people communicate and at what price. they are simply taking a leaf out of the entertainment industries book. politicians are continuously falling over themselves to do whatever they can to help preserve their friends control of the way media is viewed and purchased. this is just a change in subject, nothing else. anyone that thinks for 1 second it wont happen, be prepared for a shock. the only thing that could possibly change is if the USA takes control, which is why they are condemning the ITU proposal in the first place!

Zakida Paul says:

The answer is control. The Internet is an infrastructure that helps businesses make money and grow, and it helps ordinary people have access to a wealth of information freely.

This isn’t about ‘fixing’ anything or stopping crime or any of the other bullshit we are fed on a daily basis. It is about controlling the flow of information so that we only have access to what a dinosaur elitist group say we should have access to.

xenomancer (profile) says:

Distributed systems do not conveniently contract into a centralized structure without collapsing or fragmenting. Thankfully, if the ITU is foolish enough to “fix” the internet, the internet community will do what it does best and route around the damage. Unfortunately, I also see countries which begin losing their transient grip on the internet lashing out in desperation (see internet outages during the Arab Spring).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

yes, like any natural network structure it is distributed, but the Beacon effect applies, and you find that the net breaks down to a small number of critical hubs, DNS servers for example, big web site suck as google and face book, major data trunks feeding countries, it is not as you expect really bomb proof.

also if you look at user statistics what this ITU guy is saying is exactly correct, for example North America has 80% internet penetration (being rich) and Africa has 15%, so the statement that online access is mainly for the rich is very correct and an accurate statement.

Is it possible Masnick and TD are attacking the ITU because they are the ITU it seems they have yet again failed to provide any information that is not accurate or correct, but it’s never good enough for TD, they have to apply their version of spin to the subject.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

AC ignoring the facts.

The internet is working perfectly, it is expanding all the time. Quoting arbitrary figures like you have just done does nothing to argue for why the ITU has to take control of the internet.

If you actually look at the facts internet penetration has been increasing ever since 2000. Currently over 1/3rd of the world is connected to the internet, which is a huge achievement in the time the internet has been around.

The ITU couldn’t manage that growth rate with normal telecommunications so how do you think they will fare with this?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Because getting Africa on Facebook will solve all of their problems.

Could it be the penetration of the net might be lagging in countries where getting clean water or food might be more important than tweeting?
That these countries lack infrastructure to provide basic services, and promoting net access before survival level needs might be a bad idea?
Maybe the UN can fix that before worrying if they can like the UN on Facebook.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Getting the Internet to these people has a huge advantage over any government, it provides them with the information they need to solve their problems, and the ability to self organize to do so. The disadvantage of governments is that are a bottleneck in getting things done, especially as the devote an inordinate amount of time to paperwork.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Except they can’t wire the country without dealing with the government, so it will be a boondoggle before it even begins.

Money spent on making sure they have a device to use the internet will end up with ballooning costs and lining pockets.

Corruption can not be solved just by adding a net connection that will be managed and controlled by the corrupt.

Giving control to a group that couldn’t even get basic telcom access done in these countries is a hugely bad idea.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Agreed, the problem is how to bypass the governments. Most of Africa will bypass a wired phone network in any case. Any ideas on how to get a comms sat over Africa, with someone supporting the ground station and Internet connection. The objective being a free to use Internet connection for Areas in Africa off the Telecoms system. It does not have to supply high bandwidth connections, and is probably best if it does not. The objective is to provide Connections to people who would otherwise not have a connection, so 5-10k bandwidth would do. An Internet Connection within an hours alk of everybody would do wonders to their ability to find solutions to their own problems.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

most peoples definition of “rich” is about the same, it appear thought that you have some problems with it.. even though it is quite simple.

why did you just say, “comparing blacks and whites”..

the POINT IS “they’re are not even in the same state of society”..

so why chould 80% goobers have online access and only 15% of the ‘colored’ people ? is it a right because you are white ?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

No one said it wasn’t accurate. What was actually said was that the ITU can say that until it’s blue in the face but it doesn’t mean what they’re trying to do here will change that fact or is even intended to.

Not sure that your last paragraph/sentence actually parses out to a coherent though. Maybe you forgot some words and/or punctuation?

Daniel Morritt (profile) says:

It's a bluff!

The internet needs saving! Who will we turn to? Help us someone!

Seems an unlikely savior has come, the RIAA have decided to pitch their lot in against the evil ITU – to keep the internets secure and free!

Let’s give them the power to stop this crazy plan! All they need is for us to transfer the power over out internets to them, and they will be able to block the ITU – once and for all!!

Hooray, no more ITU! Long live the RIAA!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Sound teh alarms!

The ITU has repeatedly said that there must be common ground, rather than just a majority view, before changes are introduced to the treaty.

I don’t even know what that actually means. Is the ITU actually saying that there must be a consensus of all parties affected (not just hte parties that are part of the ITU process) before a treaty can be introduced?

That can’t be what they mean: too many of the affected parties are diametrically opposed. The end result can only be either no action at all (my preference) or a treaty that effectively means nothing.

In either case, why go to the trouble and expense of the process at all?

Dominic Sayers (profile) says:

Better the devil you know

“It was built in a bottom up manner, mainly by engineers, not bureaucrats”

This is the view trotted out by all Americans who want the US to retain control of the internet.

I don’t support the ITU’s attempt to gain more control, but please don’t portray the internet as an engineer-led project.

The US Dept of Commerce, DARPA, ICANN and other bureaucracies have consistently thwarted engineers’ vision of what the internet could be since it was invented.

Just because the ITU is bad doesn’t mean the status quo is good.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Better the devil you know

“This is the view trotted out by all Americans who want the US to retain control of the internet.”

The first web server as we know them was American…it’s a NeXT Station that is still running.

The US holds the most DNS to DNS nodes than any other nation.

We invented it.

Google’s Fiberoptic project failed because it was carried out in the middle of nowhere instead of on a Fiberoptic line on the East or West Coast of the US.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Better the devil you know

“Google’s Fiberoptic project failed because it was carried out in the middle of nowhere instead of on a Fiberoptic line on the East or West Coast of the US.”

Have you been reading any of the articles across the web at all regarding Google Fiber? Because otherwise you wouldn’t have written that.

Google Fiber is a roaring success. The fact that it is being conducted where it is is based on people in both cities (as well as the local city governments) asking for Google to conduct the project there. And what is now happening is that due to the cheap price for ridiculously fast fiber in the area, Kansas City (on both sides) is now being labeled the “Silicon Valley” of that entire area. Or better said it’s hoped to be called that, as a surprising number of tech start-ups are moving to the area. Real estate has seen a boom due to people moving, projects are opening for entrepreneurs (home for hackers being one… which is a home was purchased with the express purpose of being rented, cheaply, to tech entrepreneurs/start-ups). And so on and so forth.

And that’s not counting the fact that due to Google moving into the area and offering better services at cheaper prices the other telco companies/monopolies in the area are now being forced to actually compete and upgrade their services and lower their ridiculous prices. Which is a win for the consumers.

No Wally, that sentence of yours couldn’t be more wrong/far from the truth. Me thinks your reality distortion field has you viewing things in an incorrect light.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Better the devil you know

The rest of the US can’t handle the speed…I could be wrong though. I think I know what he’s thinking too. The network inside the city itself is 100MB connections but a lot of the nation is set around 50Mb due to telco limitations in DSL and Cable connections.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Better the devil you know

Okay, on that I agree and have read elsewhere as well. That basically nowhere else has speeds as fast, so it’s limiting in a manner of speaking (as in it can’t be topped out).

But I honestly doubt that’s what Wally was referring to when he said the project was a failure.

Nonetheless, the project itself seems to be a success. It’s provided a boom to the local real estate market, it’s developing a new tech community outside of Silicon Valley/California, and it shows that fiber is something people want and that it can be delivered at a reasonable price (which shows that the other telco providers are really screwing us when they refuse to offer better services but are charging us more nonetheless).

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Better the devil you know

But then you’ve got latency issues. Not to mention there is probably a direct connection to the line…which is actually quite expensive to install…that the hackers made. The problem isn’t within a house network, but within services outside of areas that dont use fiber optic lines. Try getting that speed on a transfer to an FTP server…say in Ohio, you still need to go over a non-local copper wire in the process.

You still get the same connection speed vs distance issue when using Fiber Optics because of the way data is bounced about inside the cable. Eventually at a distance it gets faint and is quite expensive to rig up a repeater for that. All you have to do with copper wires is keep them charged so data can pass through.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s awesome that Google provides a fiber-optic system at lower costs for a city, but it’s still a bit fast for normal web browsing.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Better the devil you know

“All you have to do with copper wires is keep them charged so data can pass through.”

Copper has reached its limit for throughput. It can’t do what fiber optics can. That’s why ISP have been supplementing DSL with fiber.

“But then you’ve got latency issues.”

Not fiber’s fault. That’s copper’s fault.

“but it’s still a bit fast for normal web browsing.”

It is for now, but the internet exploded with new capabilities when broadband became available. However, you can do quite a lot of things at the same time with that connection: Stream HD video, download a game from Steam/GOG, shop on iTunes, use VoIP, upload to cloud storage, run bittorrent, etc. all at the same time. That sounds dandy to me.

Your basic argument is that Google fiber is a failure because the rest of the internet is slower. That’s just plain stupid reasoning. How is anything going to change if everybody just stands pat? Huh? The internet won’t expand if there is no infrastructure to support it. Thus, we need faster connections to enable more demanding services. It seems to me the problem isn’t with fiber, but that there’s still copper networks holding the fiber back. There’s nothing wrong with the fiber networks, the copper networks are the problem, blame them. I do. If the rest of the internet was as fast as the Google fiber, I’d wager my only child that in 10 years, we’d find a way to saturate that and be wanting for more.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Better the devil you know

I agree, we do need more infrastructure, Google’s platform for Internet service is quite ahead of its time. All I’m saying is that until everyone else catches up, it’s a bit pointless to get a Fiberoptic line. I wasn’t arguing with you I was actually agreeing with you. It’s just a too soon factor for a lot of us outside of Kansas City, Missouri as the average consumer outside of those in Kansas City can’t get those speeds at this time. The failure I mention was only minor because maybe they should have tested out their services in a city closer to a connecting Fiberoptic line…otherwise I have no problem at all with what Google is doing. I just wish they could have done it more in other places to be able to expand the FiO infrastructure as a whole so the telco’s have no choice but to upgrade to Fiberoptic use.

As for building the infrastructure itself, all they had to do was build upon existing lines. According to FCC net neutrality rules, they wouldn’t telcos would not be able to stop them from tapping into their networks.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Better the devil you know

“As for building the infrastructure itself, all they had to do was build upon existing lines. According to FCC net neutrality rules, they wouldn’t telcos would not be able to stop them from tapping into their networks.”

That would be completely pointless. The goal was to build new infrastructure that’s faster than the old one, not piggyback on the old dusty piece of shit we have now. That’s like building a new bridge on the foundation of an old crumbling bridge. It’s just not a sound strategy.

As for their choice in location, I think it was brilliant. Put it right in one of the most under-served areas in America. It’s not exactly Silicon Valley there and that’s the point. Silicon Valley doesn’t need more high speed internet, they already have it. The pyramid needs to be turned over. Putting it in an area already well served by high speed internet would have been a huge waste and it would have gone largely unnoticed. Put it in an area that generally doesn’t have much high bandwidth service and people will notice. It’s going to cause upheaval. It has to contrast with the norm. East and west coast doesn’t contrast with this enough. In the Midwest, this sticks out like a sore thumb. People take stand up and take notice. Which is the whole point of this entire venture. Google wants to put ISP’s on notice. They better upgrade their networks or someone else will take their market away from them.

Mesonoxian Eve (profile) says:

But the internet is broken.

We’ve got the DMCA, corporate paywalls, 9 year old girls being scared out of their pajamas from an early morning raid, MPAA, RIAA, US Congress, NSA, ICE, FBI, IFPI, BFI, Russia, and China, just to *cough* name a few, who are breaking it every day.

If the ITU wants to be a regulatory entity, then perhaps they should realize the burden they’re about to take when it’s the above “internet break community” who is asking for a single-most ruling party.

Well, it was nice knowing you, internet. Soon, you will be nothing short of ads, stores, and any article writing about the truth will be seen as treason, make the writer subject to death.

Tim Berners-Lee, you should have patented the internet, if only to ensure licenses kept these asses from trying to ruin your creation.

But that’s just my opinion.

Anonymous Coward says:


The Internet allow engineers to talk to each other with shared mailing lists etc. This started as a snail mail system as Arpanet was being developed, but move online as soon as the capacity was their. This eliminate the need for managers and delegates, that is the highly paid non productive paper work pushers. Therefore unless they control the Internet, it will make these high paid people redundant as there service are not needed in the connected world.

Wally (profile) says:

“”It was built in a bottom up manner, mainly by engineers, not bureaucrats”

This is the view trotted out by all Americans who want the US to retain control of the internet.”

Maybe you should do some research and look up the following acronym.

The so called “status quo” argument concerning the internet as you put it, is touted by those in nations that suppress the ideals of the Internet, or they just can’t stomach that a group of Americans actually came together in an independant engineering project to create something.

ARPANET was the tested for sending data from one computer to the next over a long distance. Either you’re trolling, or clearly don’t know the history of the Internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

if the changes proposed didn’t mean making extra money for someone and giving extra control to someone, there wouldn’t even be any meeting happening. as the meeting is going on, you can bet your arse that there will be a few end up gaining a lot and a lot gaining next to nothing, if anything at all, and probably losing some of what they have at the moment! if there are some people that dont have internet access at the moment, because they or where they live is too remote or too poor, just how is giving more control to the ITU going to make any difference? Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the ITU is obviously paid by the phone companies to benefit no one but the phone companies. they want to increase the ‘influence’ the phone companies have on the internet, simply so as to increase their already extortionate profits, whilst doing next to nothing in return!

out_of_the_blue says:

@ "telcos who want money for internet things they had nothing to do with."

But you want Megaupload and other “file hosts” to profit off content they put NO effort or money at all into. You’re right on the principle, now be consistent in application.

Don’t let internet pioneer Mike “Streisand Effect” Masnick be forgotten on his own blog!
Think how we’d all be better off if he’d never made his one quip!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: @ "telcos who want money for internet things they had nothing to do with."

But you want Megaupload and other “file hosts” to profit off content they put NO effort or money at all into. You’re right on the principle, now be consistent in application.

The real threat of Megaupload and similar services is that they allow artists to find an audience, and make money without resorting to the use of the MAFIAA.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: @ "telcos who want money for internet things they had nothing to do with."

I guess in bizzaro world hosting is free and requires no effort?

This is one of Blue’s one-way streets.

According to him, the prices set by the market are supposed to include the sunk costs of making his $100,000 movie, but anyone who builds a system to locate or distribute any content, like Google or Megaupload, are just grifters who have their operating and overhead costs paid by mystical magical fairies and all the revenue generated is free gravy.

Adam (profile) says:

Fast Internet Growth

I have never understood why something ‘needs to be done’. Compare the growth of the internet to our last major communications development, the telephone network.

The telephone was developed in 1870, and by 1900 had started to take off. The most recent number I have heard is 6 of the world’s 7 billion people have access to a phone line (land or cell). Almost 100 years to reach that type of penetration. The internet by contrast was developed in the 1960s and commercialized in the early 90s. It has already reached over 2 billion people. (If anyone could find penetration rates over time to compare that would be awesome)

Now I do believe that governments can have a role in helping the internet grow, but the governments I see pushing for ITU control don’t appear (to me) to have the goal in mind.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: "Fix" has multiple meanings

Not “fix” as in “what a repairman does”. Think “fix” as in “ensure the game has the outcome I want”.

Don’t forget the slang definitions too:

-to castrate or spay an animal, especially a pet. (See also fixed. Jocularly of people.) : Sally suggested that someone ought to fix Beavis?if he isn’t already.

-a bribe. (See also fixed.) : Rocko never took a fix in his life.

Both of those might be applicable. The ITU could be looking to fix (castrate) the internet in order to make sure that they get their fixes (bribes) from the legacy telcos.

Jeffrey Henderson (profile) says:

The internet's Dad.....

… Vint Cerf was very concerned about this when I saw him speak a month or so ago at an event at Google’s Venice campus.

He said that these people at the ITU are serious about doing whatever they could to gain control or revenue streams off the internet. He said it’s a pretty serious threat and he’s definitely the kind of guy you pay attention to on issues concerning the web.

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