Too Many Stakeholders Spoil the Soup

Back in December, governments from around the world convened in Dubai to update the treaty that governs the international telecommunications system — but negotiations failed due to concerns that the revised agreement could make Internet companies from Google to Tumblr, and not just traditional telecom companies, subject to its provisions. These international rules would have slowed innovation by bringing the Internet into a system designed for state-run telecom monopolies. Fifty-five governments, including most of the liberal democracies, refused to sign the updated treaty. This week there is another meeting happening in Geneva, but this time it is providing an opportunity for governments to exchange views without the pressure of producing a binding agreement. The World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum (WTPF) is supposed to come up with a handful of consensus-based opinions that do not have the force of international law. The opinions will be used to build and support each country’s objectives in future treaty negotiations. Of the issues under discussion, the most contentious is the role of government in what is known as the “multi-stakeholder process.”

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