WCIT-12: the future of the internet could be decided by a conference

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Last week we reported on the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12), hosted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and some of the proposed modifications that they intend to discuss. The negotiations which aim to take a fresh look at an old treaty drawn up before the internet even existed, have started today behind closed doors in Dubai.

On the official Google Blog, internet pioneer, Vint Cerf, has voiced his concern and disapproval of these negotiations, as has PublicKnowledge.org, stating that the ITU is too government focussed.

“Our protocols were designed to make the networks of the Internet non-proprietary and interoperable. They avoided ‘lock-in,’ and allowed for contributions from many sources. This openness is why the internet creates so much value today. Because it is borderless and belongs to everyone, it has brought unprecedented freedoms to billions of people worldwide: the freedom to create and innovate, to organize and influence, to speak and be heard,” Cerf wrote.

Various petition websites are listed on the blog, and Google invites internet users to pledge their disaproval. Freeandopenweb.com lists people from all areas of the world that have signed the petition, used the #freeandopen hashtag on social media, or created and uploaded videos.

As reported on BBC News, Terry Kramer, the US’s ambassador to WCIT, said that some of the recommendations “fundamentally violate everything that we believe in terms of democracy and opportunities for individuals, and we’re going to vigorously oppose any proposals of that nature. There have been active recommendations that there be an invasive approach of governments in managing the internet, in managing the content that goes via the internet, what people are looking at, what they’re saying.” Kramer was very concerned by a proposal from Russia, that would basically increase censorship by government on internet usage.

So far the WCIT-12 has not done itself any favours, as information about what is being discussed has been kept hush-hush. Pressure from sites such as WCITLeaks, a dedicated ITU leak site who’s opening line reads: “The forthcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications is marred by a lack of transparency”, lead to the WCIT-12 offering a period where the public could view the proposals. Missing however, was the individual proposals from countries — adding more fuel to the fire of hidden agendas with the attendance of countries like Russia, Iran and China.

Recently the European Parliament stated that it “regrets the lack of transparency and inclusiveness surrounding the negotiations for WCIT-12, given that the outcomes of this meeting could substantially affect the public interest.”

As the negotiations are set to continue until 14 December, the online world continues to wait with bated breath to learn more about the discussions.

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