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ITU: Regulation of the Internet Still a Global Priority

Lack of consensus at conference in Dubai raises priority of the issue

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International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Secretary General Hamadoun Toure said the formation of public Internet policies is the sovereign right of member states, reinvigorating a debate over control of the Internet.

The decree by the ITU Secretary General was nothing new. The proclamation regarding global Internet policies was part of a broad list of statements made by the world body in Tunis in 2005, and building upon the foundation established in Geneva in 2003.

The Tunis Agenda for the Information Society, as it is named by the ITU, a United Nations organization focused on establishing technical standards and telecommunication regulations, established the primary goals of developing global telecommunications policies:

"We reaffirm the commitments made in Geneva and build on them in Tunis by focusing on financial mechanisms for bridging the digital divide, on Internet governance and related issues, as well as on implementation and follow-up of the Geneva and Tunis decisions.

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The Tunis Agenda also acknowledged the critical role global organizations such as the International Telecommunication Union, have in the coordination of Internet-related public policy issues. In 2005, the Tunis Agenda was prescriptive about the issue:

A working definition of Internet governance is the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet.

We reaffirm that the management of the Internet encompasses both technical and public policy issues and should involve all stakeholders and relevant intergovernmental and international organizations. In this respect it is recognized that:

Policy authority for Internet-related public policy issues is the sovereign right of States. They have rights and responsibilities for international Internet-related public policy issues.

The private sector has had, and should continue to have, an important role in the development of the Internet, both in the technical and economic fields.

Civil society has also played an important role on Internet matters, especially at community level, and should continue to play such a role.

Intergovernmental organizations have had, and should continue to have, a facilitating role in the coordination of Internet-related public policy issues.

International organizations have also had and should continue to have an important role in the development of Internet-related technical standards and relevant policies.

While the ITU dealt with the issue of control and regulation of the Internet in 2005, it divided the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in December, 2012 in Dubai. A treaty regarding the issue was being debated at the global conference.

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The Obama administration announced that it would refuse the sign the U.N. treaty. The U.S. objection stemmed from provisions that would give the United Nations the authority to declare censorship and regulation of the Internet.

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Terry Kramer, the U.S. ambassador to the World Conference on International Telecommunications said "The United States has announced today that it cannot sign (the treaty) in its current form,” Other countries also spoke out against the treaty, causing the agreement to fail to garner enough support for it to pass.

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The U.S. Ambassador summed the objection against the agreement as follows:

“The United States has consistently believed that the scope of the treaty does not extend to Internet governance or content. Other administrations have made it clear that they believe the treaty should be extended to cover those issues so we cannot be a part of that consensus.”

According to Secretary General Toure:

"It was disappointing in Dubai to see attempts to derail the conference by those who were persuaded that Internet control was an issue for discussion, when it was not. The Internet cannot and does not work without telecommunications infrastructure.

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