[AfrICANN-discuss] On the Need to Separate the Telecom Business
Agenda from Government Policy
annerachel at gmail.com
Wed Oct 13 10:29:01 SAST 2010
On the Need to Separate the Telecom Business Agenda from Government
- Oct 08, 2010 3:32 PM PDT
- Comments: 4<http://www.circleid.com/posts/on_the_need_to_separate_the_telecom_business_agenda_from_government_policy/#comments>
- Views: 1,785
By *Sivasubramanian M* <http://www.circleid.com/members/3601/>
[image: Sivasubramanian M]
*At Guadalajara, Mexico this week, in the policy debate kicked off by the
ITU, Russian Federation's Minister of Communications proposed that the ITU
should give itself veto power over ICANN decisions. *
*This proposal by the Regional Commonwealth in the field of Communications
(RCC) calls for the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) to be
scrapped and replaced by an ITU group.*
ITU's formation and existence deviates from the ancient wisdom behind the
philosophy (not quote verbatim) that "*a nation's capital should be situated
as farther away from the sea shore as possible*”: (merchants congregate near
the sea; if the capital is close to the sea, merchants would have proximity
to the members of the Government, so there is greater likelihood of the
merchants corrupting the politicians). In violation of this ancient wisdom,
Telecom corporations have been inexplicably granted the unique advantage of
being seated alongside Government at the ITU. This anomalous position makes
it possible for the telecoms to exercise an undue influence in government
The ITU was established because telegraphic communication needed to be
standardized for interoperability across continents. ITU established
standards for telegraphic and phone communication.
Governments chose to be part of the ITU when Governments owned telecom
corporations. Over time, most Governments have withdrawn their stakes in
their telecommunication corporations, but haven't detached themselves from
the business that no longer was owned by Governments. (The co-participation
of Government and Business at the ITU is quite different from a
multi-stockholder model where ALL stakeholders are seated around a table
with a definite balance)
This status for telecoms at the ITU is a rare status, not conferred upon the
business unions of any other industry, for instance on the Association of
Airlines or Ocean Liners. From this one of a kind business-Government
relationship, theoretically a lot of good could happen, but in reality, it
is a situation of a persistent danger of government policy being influenced
and steered in the direction desired by commercial interests.
The ITU has the facade of an inter-governmental Treaty organization making
Inter-Governmental Public Policy but in reality it is overwhelmingly a
commercial business union driven more by commercial pursuits than by
non-commercial public interest.
The concern of the telecom members of the ITU is that they should govern and
control the entire realm of communications, wired and wireless, terrestial
and spatial. The ITU already sets policies and rules in all communication,
with the exception of the Internet: Telegraphs, telephones, mobile phones
and it also manages satellite communications and the RF spectrum.
Spectrum allocation hasn't been a fair and transparent exercise, and the
Industry has been resistant to the idea of an open spectrum eco-system. For
the sake of argument, if we consider a situation where Civil Society
partnered with Governments in place of telecoms, we would have made greater
progress toward an open spectrum policy. But this does not happen when
inter-governmental policy is made at the ITU where the Telecom Businesses
virtually draft policy on Government Paper.
Another area where the ITU effectively misleads Governments in making policy
is in the area of Internet Security. ITU's Security focus appeals to the
Governments; Conversely, the Security concerns of Governments suit the
business participants of the ITU. The game plan adopted by the ITU is to
disproportionately exaggerate the security concerns with a view to position
itself as defenders of Internet Security and bring in ITU's Security centric
re-architectural proposals which would ultimately migrate the Internet to
Telecom friendly business models. ITU's security agenda requires special
attention and a separate analysis.
ITU's idea of an Internet was a networking solution provided by telecom
companies on a commercial business model. ITU tried to take charge of the
Internet in the early days of Internet. This did not happen as the Internet
took shape as a free and open medium. The Internet evolved to be way beyond
the purview of the ITU and it took shape on its own.
The Internet, as a free and open medium, threatened the business models of
telecom companies as technologies such as email, VOIP began to be adopted
worldwide. New Internet technologies that gave birth to Innovative Internet
enterprises such as Skype became phenomenally successful. These enterprises
did not obey ITU rules and significantly threatened telecom revenues.
The freedom of the Internet is because of its open architecture and due to
such principles as the end to end principle, all of which could be easily
redefined to suit ITU's commercial interests if the task of Internet
architecture and Internet standards comes under the ITU umbrella. So the ITU
tried to interject itself in the Internet Standards process. This did not
The Critical Internet Resources could be brought under the ITU umbrella by
taking over ICANN which the ITU considers vulnerable. That could ensure a
technical dominance of the Internet by the ITU. This was not easy when the ITU
made its bid<http://www.circleid.com/posts/20081115_take_over_internet_governace_itu_icann/>on
Now the proposal for veto powers to ITU over the decisions of GAC comes from
a Government participating at its Plenipotentiary.
ITU's World Telecommunication Policy Forum and its Plenipotentiary are its
major events that project the ITU as a Policy making organization and to
further its role in policy making. As an ITU organized event, the
Plenipotentiary has the Agendas of the Telecom Businesses subtly interwoven
in all policy debates and proposals. The Russian proposal arises in this
telecom setting, so it is difficult to see this as a Government proposal
free of business influence.
The answer has to The Guadalajara proposal may have to come from GAC. GAC
could respond by prompting their Governments to review the role of the ITU
in Government Policy. It is time The ITU is balanced to the fair level of
any other Business Association such as Airlines or Ocean liners.
It is time that the Governments reminded themselves of the ancient wisdom of
"staying father away from sea shore".
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