Tag Archives: International Telecommunication Union

Strawman Conundrums: ICANN, WCIT, and the Multi-Stakeholder Process by Philip Corwin, Internet Commerce Association

Internet Commerce Association logoThe International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) concluded its Dubai meeting in some disarray last week, with 89 nations (with a collective population of 2.6 billion) signing the revised International Telecommunications Regulations (ITR) and 54 (with a collective population of 3.8 billion) abstaining and thereby effectively saying ‘No’. Ironically, the host nations of the next two ICANN meetings – China and South Africa – voted in favor of an ITR that appears to favor replacing ICANN’s multi-stakeholder Internet governance model with one that would cede far more power to governments that want to censor the free flow of information and commerce. The WCIT’s conclusion inspired some predictions that a new virtual “cold war” had commenced, with a real danger that ICANN’s vision of “one world, one Internet” could be replaced by “one world, many Internets”.

U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer, in clear defense of ICANN, cited Internet governance as one of the five key reasons why the U.S. had abstained from approving the ITR: “Number four, internet governance. In several proposals, it was clear that some administrations were seeking to insert government control over internet governance, specifically internet naming and addressing functions. We continue to believe these issues can only be legitimately handled through multi-stakeholder organizations.” www.state.gov/e/eb/rls/rm/2012/202040.htm

Now it will be several years before all the nations signing the ITR can actually get through their formal processes for doing so, and even if they do so it will not necessarily translate into a balkanized and censored Internet. So the jury is still out on the full ramifications of Dubai. And, even without the ITR, there is nothing to stop any government from trying to curtail its citizens’ free access to the Internet — and there are numerous examples today where they are doing so. The real danger would come if the Internet functions presently conducted by open and transparent multi-stakeholder groups became the exclusive province of governments operating with the authority of an international organization in which other stakeholders were relegated to the sidelines.

Given post-WCIT uncertainty of the Internet’s future course, and the divided opinion over whether ICANN is getting the Internet governance job done in an effective, balanced and trustworthy manner, it would seem especially important for ICANN to go about its work in a maximally criticism-proof manner. Yet today we are witnessing a fierce and unprecedented debate over whether ICANN is formulating policy in an even-handed and predictably consistent manner.

That present debate is over the “Strawman Model” that grew out of the recent Trademark Clearinghouse meetings conducted by new ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade. ICA has previously expressed its concern that these meetings were invitation-only, not publicly noticed, and provided for no remote participation or even observation. CEO Chehade’s most recent ICANN Blog post on this subject can be found at blog.icann.org/2012/11/a-follow-up-to-our-trademark-clearinghouse-meetings/ , and in it he pledged, “I will be sending a message to the GNSO Council asking it for guidance on the Scope of Trademark Claims. In addition, the strawman model will be posted this week for public comment.”

He followed up on these commitments with a December 4th letter to the GNSO in which he stated “I am seeking policy guidance from the GNSO Council on two items as part of the next steps for the implementation of the TMCH, namely, the Strawman Proposal and the IPC/BC proposal for limited defensive registrations.” gnso.icann.org/mailing-lists/archives/council/msg13964.htmlAnd ICANN has posted a request for public comment on the Strawman Model at www.icann.org/en/news/public-comment/tmch-strawman-30nov12-en.htm, with an original comment deadline of December 21st now pushed back to January 15, 2013.

ICA will of course comment on the substance of the proposals being considered, but for now we want to dwell about more about concerns arising from the process by which this purported “Solution” has been created. Rather than expand on our earlier thoughts (see internetcommerce.org/LA_Straw%28Man%29 ) we’d like to cite some comments recently made by others that we find of particular merit.

Our prior post had cited the critique issued by Robin Gross, head of ICANN’s Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group, in which she forcefully stated, “We have the same obligations to accountability to the community, transparency of process, and equality of participation among impacted stakeholders in the development of policy at intercessional meetings that we have at other policy development meetings. Neither executive decisions nor private negotiations among select parties fulfill ICANN’s commitment to the bottom-up multi-stakeholder policy development process.” (Emphasis added/ see www.circleid.com/posts/20121119_icanns_11th_hour_domain_name_trademark_policy_negotiations/).

More recently, the recently departed head of the GNSO Council itself, Stéphane Van Gelder, expressed concern that the manner in which the Strawman Model had been developed constituted a direct attack on ICANN’s multi-stakeholder model, “The basic premise of the ICANN system is simple and fair: get all parties to work together, give everyone an equal voice, and act on whatever consensus emerges. ICANN insiders have coined this the “multi-stakeholder, bottom-up, policy development process”… But to some, this system has a major flaw: it doesn’t always allow them to get their way. Because ICANN policy making is based on consensus, any progress has to rely on some measure of give from parties. It can’t all be take…So what to do when the outcome isn’t exactly what you wanted? Most accept the result and console themselves with the knowledge that doing so strengthens this new governance model. But some never stop looking for any opening to push through their views. Even though by doing so, they are actually endangering the system as whole.” (Emphasis added/ see www.circleid.com/posts/20121102_attacking_the_multi_stakeholder_model/)

Likewise, long-time ICANN participant and current principal of leading gTLD program applicant Donuts’ Jon Nevett wrote a detailed explanation of his concerns about the Strawman process and proposal, expressing these concerns, “The ICANN community is ever closer to realization of its goal to bring long-overdue consumer choice and competition to Internet naming. Regrettably, but perhaps predictably, reliance on the Final Applicant Guidebook (AGB) is being challenged at the last minute by recent proposals from the Business and Intellectual Property Constituencies (BC/IPC), which demand “improvements” to the already extensive trademark protections that will be part of the new gTLD landscape. Equally disturbing is ICANN staff’s apparent willingness to accommodate the demands with an end-around process that may grant intrusive changes. The end result could be one that violates ICANN’s accountability principles and its commitment to marketplace fairness, and scoffs at the community’s extensive collaboration on the issue of rights protections.” (Emphasis added/ see www.circleid.com/posts/20121129_new_gtlds_last_minute_end_arounds_and_fundamental_fairness/)

A great deal of the debate over the Strawman Model’s elements concerns whether they are mere implementation tweaks of existing rights protection mechanisms (RPMs) developed for the new gTLD program, or new policies that require full multi-stakeholder and GNSO consideration under established policy development procedures. For our part, we have great concerns about any process that allows a select and non-representative slice of the broad ICANN community to plant the seeds of any new policy, when following standard procedures might have produced a very different starting point – or a decision to not begin at all.

Neustar Vice President and GNSO Council member Jeffrey Neuman shared his views on this critical distinction: “The real issue is that new reliance on the terms “policy” vs. “implementation.”  This is the issue that should receive top priority…when one group wants something in place without using the policy process, they call it “implementation.”  Those that oppose it, call it “policy.”… The now infamous New gTLD “straw-man”:  For the record, I was a part of the group that discussed the straw man in Brussels and LA over the past few weeks.  I found those discussions very useful and appreciate the efforts being made by the new ICANN CEO, who I have a tremendous amount of respect for.  I believe he truly will make a huge positive impact on ICANN for many years to come.  But, now the debate has turned into what is policy and what is implementation.  The IPC/BC and their representatives have called all of their proposals “implementation”.   The NCSG, Registries, Registrars and Applicants have called much of it policy.  ICANN staff has now weighed in on their thoughts and have classified certain items as implementation (thereby negating the need for GNSO policy development), and other items as policy, thereby requiring extensive involvement from the GNSO community… I believe we all need to take a step back from the issues immediately and decide once and for all an agreed upon bottom-up multi-stakeholder definition of what is “policy” and what is “implementation.”  Or at the very least a framework for making that assessment when issues arise… I believe the future of the GNSO, and even the multi-stakeholder model in general hinge on the definition of these 2 words.” (Emphasis added/see gnso.icann.org/mailing-lists/archives/council/msg13890.html)

Finally, ICANN Ombudsman Chris LaHatte recently announced that “I have received a complaint about the process used in the recent Trademark Clearinghouse meetings”. That prompted ICANN veteran and law professor Mary Wong, who played a key role in designing the current RPMs, to post a comment stating in part, “In short, and possibly regardless of the actual motivation for or outcome of these meetings, the fact that they were held and, more particularly, how they were conducted, naturally gives rise to some concern on the part of the rest of the ICANN community – especially those who have limited means or connections within “ICANN-land” but who are deeply concerned about many of the issues worked on by the GNSO and other groups – as to their ability to meaningfully participate in ICANN policy development and decision making.”   https://omblog.icann.org/?p=827#comments

We know all these people, as well as many others who have deep reservations about the deviation from standard procedures that resulted in the “Strawman Model’, and we know that they, like we, strongly support ICANN and its multi-stakeholder process. If ICANN’s strongest adherents begin to doubt its commitment to a transparent, fair, and consistent policy development process, then its ability to fend off future attacks, whether from the ITU or other quarters, will be substantially diminished.

We have been favorably impressed by CEO Chehade’s first months in his position, and we admire his “hands on” approach to meeting commitments resolving challenges as expeditiously as possible. But it’s clear to us, not only from the process by which the Strawman was developed but by some of its component parts, that repeating this approach in the future would be a very large mistake that would risk substantially weakening ICANN as an organization and even jeopardize its long-term viability.

No one can get everything they want in a multi-stakeholder process. Let’s hope that every stakeholder remembers that pursuing repeated end runs and workarounds in single-minded pursuit of the last possible scrap of policy success risks the very future of ICANN’s multi-stakeholder model.  

Note: To see a list, as well as a map, of the nations that did and did not indicate they would sign the WCIT ITR agreement see www.techdirt.com/articles/20121214/14133321389/who-signed-itu-wcit-treaty-who-didnt.shtml

This article by Philip Corwin from the Internet Commerce Association was sourced with permission from:

Preditable WCIT Outcome Sees US Lead Objections To ITU’s Internet Governance Changes

It was the most likely outcome. Predictable even. But the US led a walkout of delegates from mostly western countries at the conclusion of the 12 day World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai yesterday, saying they were unable to agree to any changes in internet governance.

Changes proposed would have impacted on roles such as the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority’s role in being responsible for the operation and maintenance of a number of key aspects of the domain name system (DNS).

The US delegate to the WCIT announced that the “US must communicate that it is not able to sign the agreement in the current form.”

We candidly cannot support an ITU treaty that is inconsistent with a multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance. As the ITU has stated, this conference was never meant to focus on internet issues; however, today we are in a situation where we still have text and resolutions that cover issues on spam and also provisions on internet governance.

In a statement delivered from the floor of the conference, Ambassador Terry Kramer went on to say the US “cannot support an ITU treaty that is inconsistent with a multi-stakeholder model of internet governance. As the ITU has stated, this conference was never meant to focus on internet issues; however, today we are in a situation where we still have text and resolutions that cover issues on spam and also provisions on internet governance. These past two weeks, we have of course made good progress and shown a willingness to negotiate on a variety of telecommunications policy issues, such as roaming and settlement rates, but the United States continues to believe that internet policy must be multi-stakeholder driven. Internet policy should not be determined by member states but by citizens, communities, and broader society, and such consultation from the private sector and civil society is paramount. This has not happened here.”

The position was supported by a wide range of mostly western countries, with the US, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Sweden, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Egypt, Canada, Poland, Qatar and Kenya all objecting to the changes and not being in a position of not being able to sign the treaty as planned on Friday.

But the changes that will be agreed upon by a range of countries, mostly in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, could mean the internet develops differently in different regions.

On Wednesday night a “non-binding resolution was debated which suggested the UN agency’s leadership should ‘continue to take the necessary steps for ITU to play an active and constructive role in the development of broadband and the multi-stakeholder model of the internet,’” reported BBC News.

This was opposed by the US and European governments.

While the treaty is due to be signed at 13:30 GMT on Friday, it was predictable that western countries, led by the US would object to any changes to internet governance as they had been resolute at the outset there were certain changes they would not countenance.

For more information, see the news reports below.

US, UK and Canada refuse to sign UN’s internet treaty

Talks on Internet treaty fail as U.S. bloc won’t sign

U.N. summit implodes as U.S., others spurn Internet treaty

U.S. Intervention at the World Conference on International Telecommunications: statement delivered by Ambassador Terry Kramer from the floor of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) on December 13, 2012 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

WCIT Split After Split “Vote” On Internet Governance Resolution

Internet humbles UN telecoms agency

Why the ITU is the wrong place to set Internet standards

U.S. Snubs U.N. Telecom Treaty With Rest Of West At Dubai Conference [AP]

The Masters of the Internet by Timothy Karr, Campaign Director, Free Press and SavetheInternet.com

Russia backtracks on internet governance proposals but compromise emerges

A Russian proposal to transfer the internet addressing role that the US government currently delegates to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is being opposed by the US.

The Russians are currently working with a number of other countries at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) that concludes Friday in Dubai on a compromise that would see the mission of the United Nations agency extended to the internet. But the US has signalled it is not interested.

However there are many countries siding with the US, including most Europeans and some other advanced economies, who want to limit the ITU to oversight of international phone calls and other means of communication.

And the ITU has said there must be consensus for any change to occur.

To read more, check out the following reports:

Russia backtracks on internet governance proposals
Russian-backed proposals calling for 193 countries to be given “equal rights to manage the internet” have been pulled at a UN conference in Dubai.

Compromise emerges in global talks on Internet oversight
Hopes rose on Tuesday for a compromise agreement that would keep intrusive government regulation of the Internet from being enshrined in a global treaty.

WCIT goes dark: deadlock hits key telecoms conference
The WCIT is going dark with just one day left to rewrite the international telecommunication regulations (ITRs) and a number of significant issues remaining unresolved.

Dubia WCIT Conference Splits Developed and Developing Worlds On Internet Control

The International Telecommunication Union conference currently underway in Dubai, from 3 to 14 December, has been generating some controversy recently. This is due to proposals that many view as a power grab by the United Nations organisation to take control of some internet governance roles.

The grandly named World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) has gathered interest from luminaries involved in the domain name arena from father of the internet Vint Cerf to Paul Twomey to Milton Mueller. Even Sir Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, has expressed his concerns about proposals up for discussion.

But concerns the ITU is making a power grab are denied by the ITU. Leaked proposed regulations from countries such as Russia suggest that some countries want the role of, for example, ICANN, to come under the auspices of the ITU.

Twomey goes on to note what some of the changes proposed would be if adopted.
“Included in the fine print” he writes “are proposals by Russia, China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others that could justify the following:

  • introduction of a spreading international regime for deep monitoring of internet communications, along with a move towards personal identification of who is sending and receiving communications;
  • dramatically increase the capacity of governments to restrict or completely block transmission of information via the internet; and
  • result in significant increases in the costs to internet users for accessing content on the internet.”

And then “proposals from some governments, if accepted, would go much further, including requirements that:

  • the internet be used ‘in a rational way’;
  • governments restrict the use of the internet where this would ‘interfere in the internal affairs of other states, or divulge information of a sensitive nature’; and
  • governments be required to re-route or block traffic passing through their territory simply on the request of another government.”

But the ITU’s secretary general, Hamadoun Toure, insists this is not the case and has said the ITU’s goal is not to regulate speech. There are many who believe otherwise. And the secrecy that surrounds ITU processes means it’s hard for many to know for sure given typical ITU secrecy.

However former ICANN CEO and president Paul Twomey writes on ABC News’ The Drum that “when the cheer squad includes China’s public security bureau, Putin’s bureaucrats and the Iranian government, it pays to be sceptical.”

There is as a proposal from the US and Canada, with support from the European Union and Australia, meaning most, if not all, western countries object to changes as rumoured to being proposed.

The proposal from the US and Canada is to “protect the internet from new international regulation has failed to win prompt backing from other countries, setting up potentially tough negotiations to rewrite a telecom treaty,” according to a Reuters report.

The idea “would limit the International Telecommunication Union’s rules to only telecom operators and not internet-based companies such as Google and Facebook.”

Reuters goes on to report “that could reduce the prospective impact of efforts by other countries including Russia and some in the Middle East and Africa to obtain more powers to govern the Internet through the ITU.”

“ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré told Reuters last week that any major changes to the 1988 treaty would be adopted only with “consensus” approaching unanimity, but leaked documents show that managers at the 147-year-old body view a bad split as a strong possibility.”

For links to the stories mentioned above and additional reports and opinion pieces, see below:

Keep the Internet free and open by Vint Cerf

Google’s Vint Cerf: Keep the Internet Free and Open

The new push to control the internet by Paul Twomey

Internet revolution in crisis by Milton Mueller

UN internet regulation talks in Dubai threaten web freedom

US fails to win early limit on Net controls at global gathering

Sir Tim Berners-Lee flags UN net conference concerns

Berners-Lee warns against changes to Net at UN conclave

The Internet’s Future Depends on Maintaining Its Free Spirit by Vint Cerf

Eye on Dubai: Predictions on U.N. Internet Regulations

Cutting Our Own Net by Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation

US Opposes ITU Consultation On Internet Regulation

ITU logoThe International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has opened consultation on internet regulation in the lead up to the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai.

The consultation, which closes on 3 November, allows for consultation on the draft document [PDF] and any matter relating to the WCIT. Issues outlined in the document include the price of mobile roaming, investment in high speed broadband, security and fraud and a range of other issues including, in effect, the role of ICANN.

The United States has already expressed its displeasure with a House of Representatives resolution that “calls on US government officials to tell the ITU and other international organizations that it is the ‘consistent and unequivocal policy of the United States to promote a global Internet free from government control,’” reported PC World.

At the upcoming conference in Dubai, “U.S. officials expect other countries to push for international Internet traffic taxes and for the ITU to take Internet governance away from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and other organizations.”

“Proposals at the ITU and other U.N. agencies ‘would justify under international law increased government control over the Internet and would reject the current multi-stakeholder model that has enabled the Internet to flourish and under which the private sector, civil society, academia, and individual users play an important role in charting its direction,’ reads the House resolution, sponsored by Representative Mary Bono Mack, a California Republican.”

United Nations and the Internet: It’s Complicated Writes Rebecca Mackinnon

America’s two main political parties do not agree on much. But one thing they do agree on is “that the United Nations … should not be given control over a globally interconnected network that transcends the geography of nation-states,” writes Rebecca Mackinnon in Foreign Policy. “The Internet is too valuable to be managed by governments alone. Yet there is less agreement over how well the alternative ‘multistakeholder’ model of Internet governance is working — or whether it is really serving all of us as well as it might.”

Mackinnon notes the immediate threat is the “World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) scheduled for December in Dubai by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a U.N. body whose remit has thus far been limited to global telephone systems. Members meet behind closed doors.”

Proposed policy changes were leaked recently and published on the WCITLeaks website revealing “how a number of governments — in league with some old-school telecommunications companies seeking to regain revenues lost to the Internet — are proposing to rewrite global international telecommunications regulations in ways that opponents believe will corrode, if not destroy, the open and free nature of the Internet.”

Mackinnonn writes that only a few people have heard of ICANN or “the collection of regional internet registries that coordinate IP addresses, or the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).”

But she also says “this governance ecosystem has worked astonishingly well in managing the Internet’s exponential growth, largely because the system is so open and decentralized that any person anywhere on Earth with engineering or software-programming skills can invent new software applications, devices, and other networked technologies that can all interconnect with one another without needing to obtain permission or buy a license from anybody.”

But will they succeed? Mackinnon examines efforts to govern the internet, including the US’s attempt of regulation, with “some libertarians argue that the U.S. Congress — with legislative efforts like SOPA — is arguably as much a threat to the internet as the United Nations.”

Mackinnon concludes that “history has shown that all governments and all corporations will use whatever vehicles available to advance their own interests and power. The internet does not change that reality. Still, it should be possible to build governance structures and processes that not only mediate between the interests of a variety of stakeholders, but also constrain power and hold it accountable across globally interconnected networks. Right now, the world is only at the beginning of a long and messy process of working out what those structures and processes should look like. You might say we are present at the creation.”

To read this essay in full by Rebecca Mackinnon in Foreign Policy, go to: