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.