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World Conference on International Telecommunications Could Threaten Freedom of IP Transit
Governments taking control over the Internet has long been a powerful source of urban legends, yet the concept of censorship, snooping and even taxation has been a reality in a number of countries.
In the U.S., however, lawmakers, activists and even journalists are fighting again the potential, fearing the powers in China, Russia and even some Middle Eastern countries are abusing their power regarding information shared via IP transit.
According to this Idea Lab report, concerns have been actively shared with the U.N. telecommunications agency. The International Telecommunications Union is leading the summit scheduled to take place in Dubai in December.
Representatives from 193 countries are scheduled to meet and revise a treaty established in 1988 regarding global telephony service regulations. Now that so many entities rely on IP transit for network communications, the outcome of this summit can have far-reaching implications.
While activists and some lawmakers are concerned about the outcome, a representative with ITU denied the agency had plans to make or permit an opportunity for competing over the power to control the Internet.
Sarah Parkes, chief of media relations and public information for the ITU stressed that Internet governance is not even an issue at this conference as leaders will instead focus on routing, exchange and roaming rates – all of which do touch IP transit when communicating globally.
What could have opponents up in arms is the face that the ITU does not take an official opinion on any of these issues. The agency views its role as simply one organizer for the World Conference on International Telecommunications.
The agency will act as facilitator on this international conversation as leaders discuss how telecommunications should operate throughout the world. Given the role IP transit plays in global communications, many wonder how it will not be addressed in this conference.
Of some concern is the fact that each country has the opportunity to submit proposed updates to the 1988 treaty and Internet governance could be included in such proposals. The updates cannot go into effect without broad consensus from the other participating nations.
In fact, according to Parkes, it only takes a handful of dissenters to stop the success of a proposal. The question then is are there enough nations who believe in the freedom of the Internet?
This question gained more importance when WCITLeaks.org included a number of proposed treaty updates on its website. Several of them from countries such as Russia, China and the Arab States, have raised alarm in the U.S. Parkes referred to the site as “very amusing”, yet refused to provide an official response from the ITU.
The outcome of this conference can have far-reaching impacts. U.S. lawmakers are hopeful that the freedom in IP transit will be protected not only for its citizens, but for users throughout the world.
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Edited by Rachel Ramsey
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