No change to telecoms and internet governance – EU Member States amongst dozens not signing proposed new International Telecommunications Regulations (ITR) Treaty, remain 100% committed to open internet

Brussels, 17-12-2012 — / — Delegates from the 193 member countries of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) have concluded the “World Conference on International Telecommunications” (WCIT) conference in Dubai. Negotiations to review the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs) failed to reach consensus agreement.

The European Union is and will remain 100% committed to supporting the open internet. The European Union has worked long and hard to make constructive updates and revisions to the ITR Treaty in order to bring it up to date, while ensuring that it stays within an appropriate scope. The Commission proposed in July 2012 a common EU position, which was adopted by Council decision in November 2012 (MEMO 12/922). The European Parliament also adopted a resolution. Throughout the WCIT conference, EU Member States, in cooperation and coordination with the Commission, successfully defended their common position, especially on issues of EU competence.

Considerable efforts were made by both the EU and the conference chair, Mr Mohammed Al-Ghanim of the United Arab Emirates, to propose language agreeable to all 193 countries. Indeed, agreement was reached on provisions in a number of important areas such as price transparency for roaming, global emergency numbers and the updating of charging and accounting arrangements for international telecommunications traffic.

However, a proposal made in the final discussions introduced proposals unacceptable to EU Member States. This included possible extension of the ITRs to cover internet issues and ruptured the possible fragile compromise. A vote was then called by Iran which determined a final revised ITR treaty text which EU Member States were not in a position to sign.

In the opinion of EU participants, the final text risked threatening the future of the open internet and internet freedoms, as well as having the potential to undermine future economic growth. The EU was concerned about this possible harm not only within the EU, but globally, including in developing countries.

Fewer than half of the ITU Member States, accounting for a small proportion of global telecoms traffic, signed the proposed revised treaty today. The European Commission and EU Member States will now study the impact of this action. What is clear is that existing commercial arrangements are untouched. Innovative market-led commercial arrangements remain possible and the open internet will remain in place.

The 1988 International Telecommunication regulations (ITR) Treaty has served the world well over nearly quarter of a century, during which time we have seen the development of liberalised and competitive telecommunications markets in many regions of the world and the growth and development of technologies such as mobile telephony and the internet. The EU believes that the discussion period opening in Deauville in 2011 and concluding here in Dubai in December 2012 has greatly advanced our common vision of global cooperative governance of the networks in our new millenium. With respect to many of the issues and concerns raised by some of the developing countries, the EU will continue to support technical assistance, exchanges of best practice and capacity building.

Today’s institutional actors and fora, comprising both ITU and the more recent processes of internet governance – including the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – need to work in an open and balanced manner for all countries in the world.

The realisation of that view of multi-stakeholder governance is an ongoing process. The European Commission continues to pursue a reform agenda across the internet governance landscape. We are confident that the harvest of deeper understanding and greater goodwill achieved in Dubai will enable an enlarging circle of key actors to take this vision back into our various fora and processes, thus guaranteeing a better networked world for all peoples.


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