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US drops ‘net regulation bombshell, threatens WCIT exit

Pique-propelled pacifier projectile launched at ITU

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As the ITU’s WCIT conference rolls on in Dubai, the head of the American delegation Terry Kramer has pointed to the big red button, threatening to veto any new treaty it believes puts the Internet at risk.

America’s delegation has become increasingly agitated at the content of proposed changes to the ITRs – International Telecommunications Regulations – coming from countries such as Russia and China. According to Australian telecommunications newsletter Communications Day, the veto threat was made to a Dow Jones journalist, with Kramer saying the US delegation could “walk away from the conference”.

In this (video) interview between Kramer and the ITU’s Sarah Parkes, Kramer says he was “surprised and disappointed” at the version of the ITRs put forward on 7 December, saying it “creates an open door for review of content and potential censorship”.

Kramer describes the central issue as being the difference between “operating agency” and “recognised operating agency”. That one word, he says, redefines the scope of the ITRs. If confined to recognised operating agencies – that is, the government-licensed telecommunications carriers – the ITRs would not have the scope to reach into entities such as ISPs, cloud operators or other service providers.

Yet another point of contention has emerged regarding the handling of Internet names and numbers, with members such as Russia backing a wording of the ITRs that puts names and numbers under national control (kind of).

The proposed regulation says “member states shall have the right to manage all naming, numbering, addressing and identification resources used for international telecommunications”, something that would erode the top-level control wielded by ICANN and IANA.

Although governments have generally ignored IP addressing resources (to such a degree that in the UK, the board of IPv6 advocacy organisation 6UK has resigned en masse), the same cannot be said for naming agencies, many of which are already indirectly government-operated via national telecommunications carriers, or by agencies working under explicit government mandate.

The live-streamed "secret" talks continue this week. ®

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