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The International Telecommunication Union, or ITU, is a specialized UN agency with 193 member states. It defines and adopts telecom standards, allowing people to communicate with each other all over the world.
This December, member states are coming together at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) to decide how to update the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs), which were adopted in 1988. Several member states have proposed that the ITU expand its jurisdiction to include regulations that would cover various aspects of the internet. While those proposals weren't initially made publicly available, leaked documents show us that some of the proposals are extremely problematic.
Several of the proposals are intended to expand significantly the jurisdiction of the ITU to give that body the ability to regulate internet access, infrastructure, and even certain types of content.
These include proposals would potentially:
- 1. Legitimize disruption of service, control of routing, and other tools of censorship by repressive regimes;
2. Drive up the cost of over the top services that compete with traditional telecom services, such as Skype, dampening innovation, limiting competition, and discouraging deployment;
3. Give the ITU greater authority over critical infrastructure, such as IP numbering and protocol development.
Public Knowledge’s Position
Many of these proposals are objectively bad. More than that, though, the ITU is the wrong place to put forward proposals, good or bad, that would govern broad Internet policy. The ITU was created to be, and is, focused on technical telecommunications standards and built around the participation of governments. Forcing it to serve as a forum for creating international Internet law could easily lead to an internet where speech is less free, human rights are less respected and economic development is slowed.
This is a rare moment in which the major interests in the US—left, right, and center as well as industry, public interest, and government—agree.
We are reaching out to our civil society counterparts around the world to persuade them to urge their ITU delegates to join the US and oppose centralized control over the Internet. You can count on us to keep you apprised as the issue develops and to make sure that the ITU's power doesn't encroach on the openness of the internet.
What you can do to help
- Subscribe to our email list for updates on hot issues and events.
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- Visit our Action Center to give policy makers a piece of your mind.
For more information
- Read Civil Society is Key to the Debate on International Control Over the Internet by PK President Gigi B. Sohn
- Read the bipartisan resolution which opposes increased control of the ITU over internet governance
- Read The ITU, WCIT, And Internet Freedom by PK VP Harold Feld
- Read all content related to the ITU