The battle for the future internet continues. This time, the focus is not on WikiLeaks or cybercrime treaties or privacy. Controls but rather on the International Telecommunications Union.
Under the World Conference on International Telecommunication (12 WCIT-12), the ITU is currently meeting at Dubai. Agenda, To discuss changes to the International Telecommunication Regulations. ITR, a 1988 treaty that was sign by 178 countries to establish the principles for international telecommunications operations.
Many media outlets have made a lot of the ITU meeting over the past weeks. They suggest that WCIT-12 is a concerted effort by the ITU. To take control of the internet and compromise freedom of speech. But is this really what’s happening? Is the ITU trying to put more restrictions on the internet? These questions can only be answer if we understand the ITU and it functions.
Regulator From The Past Internet
The ITU and ITR are both prehistoric in internet terms. The ITU was establish in 1865. It is responsible for international coordination of radio, telegraph and telephone systems.
In 1988, the ITR was sign in Melbourne to bring telecommunication regulation into the modern era. This was pre-internet. In 1993, web browsers made it searchable and available on the internet. The net was then open to commercial traffic in 1995.
The battles to control key elements of internet governance are almost as old as the internet itself. The US’s de facto control over the internet long resent by Europe and the BRIC countries (Brazil and India, China, India, and Russia). This influence is due to the US’s dominance of key net bodies like the.
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, ICANN is the body that assigns domain names such www.google.com and approves new domains
Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, (IANA), is the body that assigns IP addresses and manages. Data in root servers at heart of Domain Name System (DNS). This allows us to find each other on the internet.
ICANN, a California-incorporation non-profit organization, is govern by California law. This compromise was reach in 1998, when US-centric domain name. Allocation became the centre of a dispute between Europe & the US.
Many countries consider the ITU as a member in good standing of the UN Development. Group as a neutral candidate to regulate aspects of the internet.
The Fight Continues
The battle lines seem to been drawn once again with the revision of the ITR propose at WCIT-12. The US has mobilized private actors like Google to fight any attempt by the ITU to grab power. Vint Cerf is one of the early internet engineers and has made a series of shocking claims about the agenda for the WCIT.
These claims include the assertion that any ITU moves to expand its power and get involve in internet governance will endanger the net as we know. Despite the fact that much of the initial work was fund by the US Department of Defence, the net emerge as an open-ended platform for collaboration.
Internet communication was design to be decentralise. This is in contrast to traditional hub-and spoke telephony. The internet’s decentralise structure allow traffic to be route through alternative routes in the event of a network failure.
Decentralization means that there is no centralised control or chokepoint, which makes it difficult to manage the internet from a central location. This design beautiful because it doesn’t matter how intelligent or applications built, but the network dumb.
This is what has made the internet innovative and open. It also distinguishes it form close networks and proprietary intelligence that are host and control at the centre of the network.
Are You Charging For The Internet
As long as users have the appropriate connections and implement the appropriate protocols (such TCP/IP), they can join the internet. It doesn’t take much to sign up and it’s not necessary to pay anything. All you have to do is adhere to the appropriate standards.
This business model fundamentally different from the traditional telephony that regulate by ITU. This model ensures that telecommunications are tightly regulated, even down to international exchange charging mechanisms. The ITU recognizes the concerns of developing countries and has granted them permission to charge for internet content.
According to developing countries, they cannot afford the net infrastructure that will be used by rich (mostly US-based) content providers like YouTube and Facebook to disseminate their content.
This is why it is possible that WCIT-12 will examine potential charging models. This would explain the concern of Google and the US that the ITU will charge you the user to use the net. Google, for example, would be charged by the ITU. They would then have to consider how these costs might be passed on.