U.S. Engagement at the World Conference on International Telecommunications

Posted by Philip Verveer
December 21, 2012
A Man Works On His Laptop in Missouri

The recently completed World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) demonstrated that there is not yet a global consensus on certain fundamental issues concerning the telecom and Internet sectors. Nevertheless, the WCIT highlighted the importance of continuing the conversation about those issues, and we would like to highlight two areas where there is potential for progress.

First, the United States Delegation and many allies remain fully committed to the inclusive multi-stakeholder Internet governance model, which is a pillar of the Internet's great success. The Internet has thrived under the multi-stakeholder governance model to become a worldwide phenomenon, and our support for that model is unwavering.
The multi-stakeholder governance model must be a welcoming environment for all stakeholders, including governments. Concomitantly, we hope the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will continue to move toward expanding opportunities for non-governmental stakeholders to participate fully in its processes.

Second, the conference highlighted broad and deep support for broadband deployment facilitated by open, liberalized markets. The United States delegation went to Dubai with a goal of promoting high speed broadband innovation, investment, and deployment throughout the world. We were pleased to see how many other ITU Member States share our interest in this important issue. We look forward to participating in future international discussions on broadband, including at the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission meeting early next year in Mexico.

The United States has consistently believed, and continues to believe, that the ITRs should be a high-level document and that the scope of the treaty does not extend to Internet governance or content. Other administrations made it clear that they believe the treaty should be extended to cover those issues, and they ultimately diverted WCIT-12 from its original path and purpose of promoting global telecommunications interconnectivity. That is unfortunate because during the course of the conference, the United States and many other nations worked together to address the most troubling proposals and negotiate a much better agreement, one that includes forward-looking provisions promoting market liberalization, giving prominence to commercially negotiated agreements instead of regulation, advancing consumer protections and supporting access to international telecommunications for the disabled, and preventing the Internet and telecom sectors from being burdened by discredited tax and transfer payment schemes.

On balance, however, the outcome document produced at WCIT-12 contained too many flawed provisions to allow the United States to sign. That decision does not leave us isolated. Far from it. Fifty-five Member States have declined to sign or have deferred a decision for the time being. They include nearly all of Europe, as well as other key leaders of the developed and the developing world. It bears noting that nearly all of the non-signatories are nations with liberalized telecommunications markets and advanced Internet economies.

The results of WCIT-12 are not a sign that the United States will withdraw from the global conversation about the Internet, broadband development, and international telecommunications interconnectivity. Just the opposite. We must and we will continue to engage with other countries and international stakeholders on these issues through the multi-stakeholder process, as well as in intergovernmental forums like the ITU.



December 26, 2012

D.K. in Manila writes:

When someone says "The United States has consistently believed..." it makes me wonder exactly who they are talking about. If talking about American citizens, which citizens or how many citizens. How & when were these citizens polled and what public notices were posted.
Just curious.

Ashim C.
December 26, 2012

Ashim in Delhi writes:

One wonders if somebody is also looking at the issue of internet promoting crime, behavorial problems especially among youth and if law enforcing agencies can use browsing patterns to detect problematic behavorial traits among surfers and check them. Internet gives a certain amount of anonymity which is not totally healthy.

United Kingdom
December 26, 2012

Davies in the UK writes:

We look forward to participating in future international discussions on broadband, This article is well written and very informative.I’m happy I recently found.

Tim H.
District Of Columbia, USA
January 2, 2013

Tim H. in Washington, D.C. writes:

The next Tech@State on March 8, 2013 is going to focus on Internet Freedom and will feature discussions on issues like these. See http://tech.state.gov for more info.


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