As WCIT negotiations drag into the night, Internet remains a sticking point

Also at issue is whether human rights should be addressed

By Jennifer Baker, IDG News Service |  Government

Negotiations on the future governance of international telecommunications will continue through the night at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai.

The international conference is attempting to revise global rules for governing telecoms and the Internet that have not been updated since 1988. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) progress is being made on the document, which must be agreed by consensus. On Wednesday, ITU spokesman Paul Conneally described the discussions as a "rollercoaster ride."

The remaining sticking points are on whether the new rules apply to the Internet and whether human rights should be included in the text.

According to Conneally there seemed to be agreement that the Internet should be mentioned only in terms of fostering its growth, but the preamble text was bogged down over discussion on whether human rights should be included. Those opposed included China, Iran and Malaysia.

In line with the European Union's common negotiating position, Poland, the Netherlands and the U.K. all said the revised International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) should not cover the Internet. They were backed by Kenya, the first African country to take this position.

As the issue was not resolved in Wednesday's plenary session, that section of the text was returned to the ad hoc group chaired by South Africa. The document must be signed on Friday, so it is expected that negotiation will continue until an agreement is reached. Organizers say this could be around 1:00 AM Dubai time on Thursday.

With agreement reached on many sections of the text, two other remaining big issues are quality of service, and naming, number and addressing of telecom services -- articles 3.7 and 3.8 of the text.

Article 3.7's text, "member states shall refrain from taking unilateral and/or discriminatory actions that could impede another member state's access to public international telecommunication networks and services, Internet sites and using resources," was strongly backed by Iran. But the U.S. said this is already dealt with in the UN treaties and is not needed in the ITRs.

Article 3.8's text, "member states shall, if they so elect, be able to manage the naming, numbering, addressing and identification resources used within their territories for international telecommunication" was opposed by E.U. countries as well as Japan. At issue is whether that language can be interpreted as handing control over the Internet to individual national governments.

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