Tag Archives: WCIT

WCITLeaks is Ready for WTPF-13

When Jerry and I started WCITLeaks, we didn’t know if our idea would gain traction. But it did. We made dozens of WCIT-related documents available to civil society and the general public—and in some cases, even to WCIT delegates themselves. We are happy to have played a constructive role, by fostering improved access to the information necessary for the media and global civil society to form opinions on such a vital issue as the future of the Internet. You can read my full retrospective account of WCITLeaks and the WCIT over at Ars Technica.

But now it’s time to look beyond the WCIT. The WCIT revealed substantial international disagreement over the future direction of Internet governance, particularly on the issues of whether the ITU is an appropriate forum to resolve Internet issues and whether Internet companies such as Google and Twitter should be subject to the provisions of ITU treaties. This disagreement led to a split in which 55 countries opted not to sign the revised ITRs, the treaty under negotiation.

Where does this divisive ITR revision leave us? It means that the next two years or so of ITU meetings have the potential to be extremely interesting. In particular, the World Telecommunication/Information and Communication Technology Policy Forum (WTPF) in May 2013 in Geneva and the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (known as “Plenipot”) in October-November 2014 in Busan, South Korea, are worth watching closely.

Unlike the WCIT, the WTPF is not a treaty conference. It is a meeting that produces opinions and reports. Also unlike the WCIT, at WTPF the Internet is explicitly on the table in an up-front, honest way. The opinions and reports produced at WTPF about the Internet will be used as input documents into Plenipot, which is a full treaty conference. At Plenipot, the entire Constitution and Convention of the ITU is subject to revision, so it is extremely likely that the Internet will be considered. One contact of mine has called Plenipot “WCIT 2.”

There is some good news. So far, all WTPF preparatory documents have been 100% open to the public. WCITLeaks applauds the ITU for this policy. Transparency provided directly by the ITU is better than the transparency we have provided in the past, because the ITU’s public documents are often available in multiple languages, something that WCITLeaks does not have the resources to offer. For example, here is the fourth draft of the SG’s report from the Informal Experts Group for WTPF. Note that it is available in English, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, French, and Russian. The multilingual availability of this document ensures that an even broader array of global civil society will be able to more closely follow WTPF preparations.

The bad news is that we do not yet know if WTPF documents beyond the preparatory phase will be publicly available. When those documents appear, they will be listed here, but it is possible that users who are not affiliated with Member States or Sector Members won’t have access. In addition, we do not yet know what the policy will be toward access to documents relating to Plenipot.

We hope that the ITU will continue to take these important steps toward greater transparency. At the same time, we are ready to reprise our WCIT role if necessary. To that end, we have reoriented the WCITLeaks site to focus on WTPF and future conferences. WCIT-related documents will continue to be available at wcitleaks.org/wcit. As always, you can stay up to date by following @WCITLeaks on Twitter. Happy leaking!

Event Next Week: Previewing the World Conference on International Telecommunication

As some of you know, I’ve been closely following the World Conference on International Telecommunication, an international treaty conference in December that will revise rules, for example, on how billing for international phone calls is handled. Some participants are interested in broadening the scope of the current treaty to include rules about the Internet and services provided over the Internet.

I haven’t written much publicly about the WCIT lately because I am now officially a participant—I have joined the US delegation to the conference. My role is to help prepare the US government for the conference, and to travel to Dubai to advise the government on the issues that arise during negotiations.

To help the general public better understand what we can expect to happen at WCIT, Mercatus has organized an event next week that should be informative. Ambassador Terry Kramer, the head of the US delegation, will give a keynote address and take questions from the audience. This will be followed by what should be a lively panel discussion between me, Paul Brigner from the Internet Society, Milton Mueller from Syracuse University, and Gary Fowlie from the ITU, the UN agency organizing the conference. The event will be on Wednesday, November 14, at 2 pm at the W hotel in Washington.

If you’re in the DC area and are interested in getting a preview of the WCIT, I hope to see you at the event on Wednesday. Be sure to register now since we are expecting a large turnout.

The New WCITLeaks

Today, Jerry and I are pleased to announce a major update to WCITLeaks.org, our project to bring transparency to the ITU’s World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT, pronounced wicket).

If you haven’t been following along, WCIT is an upcoming treaty conference to update the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), which currently govern some parts of the international telephone system, as well as other antiquated communication methods, like telegraphs. There has been a push from some ITU member states to bring some aspects of Internet policy into the ITRs for the first time.

We started WCITLeaks.org to provide a public hosting platform for people with access to secret ITU documents. We think that if ITU member states want to discuss the future of the Internet, they need to do so on an open and transparent basis, not behind closed doors.

Today, we’re taking our critique one step further. Input into the WCIT process has been dominated by member states and private industry. We believe it is important that civil society have its say as well. That is why we are launching a new section of the site devoted to policy analysis and advocacy resources. We want the public to have the very best information from a broad spectrum of civil society, not just whatever information most serves interests of the ITU, member states, and trade associations.

At the same time, we’re not backing off from our original position. We think the ITU’s policy of keeping WCIT-related documents secret is becoming increasingly untenable. We received an email from the ITU’s press office yesterday announcing a global press briefing. Here is what it said:

As the conference approaches, there is quite a lot of misinformation being circulated concerning the agenda and process of the conference. Join this global discussion to find out what’s REALLY going to be discussed, and how the process of proposals and debates operates to ensure a global consensus among all countries.

Misinformation, they claim—about documents the ITU keeps secret. If the ITU and its client states have nothing to hide, why are they keeping information from the public? The best way to fight misinformation is with transparency. We call on the ITU and its member states to make all documents associated with global telecommunications available to the public.

We could also use your help. Please help us spread the word about WCITLeaks to anyone who may be interested. In addition, we ask our users around the world to apply pressure to their governments to make their documents publicly available. Finally, please make good use of our new resources section; it is vital for the future of the Internet that the global citizenry be well-informed about potential threats to the free flow of information.