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Warning: ITU and ETNO asking Internet to sleepwalk backwards

John Kay cites interesting Q&A with a Russian planner who visited the United States after the collapse of the Soviet Union:

A perhaps apocryphal story tells of a Russian visitor, impressed by the laden shelves in US supermarkets. He asked: “So who is in charge of the supply of bread to New York?” The market economy’s answer – that not only is no one in charge, but it is a criminal offence for anyone to seek that position – is surprising.

The essential things like milk, bread and eggs get supplied through obliquity rather than direct central planning. And so has been the Internet, worldwide. The ITU is, however, asking the governments to erect walls around the Internet and discipline its free flow. The European state-owned incumbents are breaking bread with ITU and demanding payments for flowing Internet through telecom networks.

LIRNEasia’s CEO, Rohan Samarajiva, has been challenging the doctrine of ITU-ETNO at various events. Now he is citing the evolution of Sri Lanka’s liberalization of international gateway. Rohan outlines how the cheaper phone calls to overseas and affordable Internet bandwidth have been driving productivity and national competitiveness:

The liberalisation created incentives for access-network operators to increase incoming and outgoing international revenues through commercial means, rather than by lobbying government or by colluding with those exploiting arbitrage opportunities. International telephone calls became affordable to all, including the millions of family members within Sri Lanka who needed contact with expatriate workers.

Sri Lanka had missed the original Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) wave that created export revenues and jobs in countries such as India and the Philippines. The liberalisation of the international segment enabled Sri Lanka to attract several major BPO investments. By 2010, the BPO sector employed 13,000 employees in export-generating activities that yielded USD 98 million in revenues. Seven years after the international liberalisation the combined Information Technology (IT) and IT enabled services sector was the fifth largest source of export earnings for the country.

He concluded with a very clear warning ahead of the ITU’s event next month, “It would be a mistake to foist a failed 20th century regulatory model for telephones onto the 21st century dynamic and evolving internet.” Read the full article.

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