United States Rejects UN Telecom Treaty in Dubai

Telecom TreatyThe United States on Thursday said that it would not sign the new ITU treaty aimed at Internet governance. The U.S. delegation at the conference in Dubai, led by Ambassador Terry Kramer, commented that there were “too many issues here that were problematic for us.”

The treaty is intended to govern how telephone calls and communications traffic is exchanged internationally. Though the treaty is not legally binding, the provisions surrounding Internet governance and content matters were opposed by the United States and several other governments such as the UK, Canada, and Sweden. The U.S. delegation further noted that the treaty should not be applied to Internet providers as well as private and government networks, but rather to traditional telecom operators. Though toothless, the treaty could set a future precedence on Internet governance that would be against U.S. interests, according to Mr. Kramer.

Technology trade groups, spearheaded by Google, warned early on about the danger of adopting the ITU treaty and its potential for leading to future censorship of the Internet. Other criticism of the treaty included the risk of creating an obstacle for innovation and increasing government regulations of the Internet.

Political leaders from both parties passed resolutions in the House and the Senate directing the U.S. government to oppose international efforts to increase ITU’s control over the Internet.  Other Western countries joined the U.S. in questioning why governments should meddle with the free flow of information on the Internet. Some of the most vocal nations in favor of the new treaty were China, Russia, Iran and the Gulf Arab states. In total, 89 countries signed the treaty; 55 did not. The conference showed the deep ideological rift among the 193 member nations of the UN.

The treaty will take effect in January 2015. It remains to be seen where the non-signatory countries will end up, many of which may yet sign the treaty. What is certain at this point, however, is that the future of the Internet, and how to govern it, will remain a hot debate topic in the coming months and years.

Posted by: Samuel Benka

 Sources: The Los Angeles Times, The Seattle Post Intelligencer, The Hill

Photo Credit:  ITU WCIT 2012 Courtesy of Flickr user veni markovski

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