Last week, we covered the key fight
at the ITU's World Conference on Telecommunications (WCIT) and it was all over just one word: would any new international telecom regulations apply to "recognized operating agencies" or just "operating agencies." The difference may sound minor, but it could mean a world of difference. If it's just recognized operating agencies, then the rules are limited to giant national telcos. If it's all "operating agencies" then the rules could apply to, well, just about everyone who runs any kind of internet service. This is a huge difference. As the debate rages on
-- and even as the worst proposal from Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and others is now off the table
-- reports started circulating that the US had announced that it was prepared to walk away from WCIT entirely
if there was continued movement towards significant changes in internet governance. That was seen as a pretty big threat, because a US rejection of the overall process might doom it from any sort of acceptance. However, in an emailed statement, US ambassador Terry Kramer is claiming that the reports that he's made such a threat are simply untrue (and not particularly helpful):
In the past few days, a small number of media reports have characterized the United States as “threatening” to withdraw from the WCIT negotiations. These speculative reports are inaccurate and unhelpful to the Conference. The United States has made no such threat, and it remains fully committed to achieving a successful conclusion to the WCIT.
To be honest, whether or not it's "helpful," it seems like it might actually be a lot more effective. As some are beginning to point out
, almost everything about the ITU is a mess, and it's time that the US stood up and told it to stop messing where it doesn't belong. That article quotes former White House CTO Andrew McLaughlin describing why the ITU has no business regulating the internet.
"What is so bad about the ITU?" Mr. McLaughlin asked in a speech to the New America Foundation in Washington on Nov. 29. "It's just simple things like the nature, structure, culture, values and processes of the ITU. They are all inimical to a free and open Internet, and they are all inconsistent with the nature of the technical infrastructure that now characterizes our communications networks." Voting rules let repressive governments "engage in horse trading that has nothing to do with the technical merits of the decisions under consideration."
Indeed. So why are we even playing the game?