Some fears in the U.S. that the WCIT could lead to regulations censoring the Internet are overstated, Fowlie added. The U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights advocates freedom of expression "through any media and regardless of frontiers." Any efforts to censor the Internet at WCIT would run counter to that declaration, he said.
Still, WCIT could "create a lot of mischief," said Milton Mueller, a professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. "This is an accident waiting to happen."
Instead of creating new regulations that could affect the Internet, the ITU should do away with the international telecom regulations, he said. Instead of the ITU, private companies and civil society should come up with rules for interconnection and other telecom issues, he said.
The ITU and its telecom regulations have hung around after their original purpose has expired, Mueller said. "It's almost impossible for intergovernmental organizations to go out of existence," he said. "They just hang on and try to think of new things to do."
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.