The most important work will get done in the early hours of the last night, as was the case in Melbourne. Lots of countries are lining up to speak on Article 6, the one that has been our focus. Also unresolved are some important economic issues. Perhaps the most potentially game-changing aspect here involves language that would replace the end-to-end principle (where network operators agree to carry all traffic from its origin to destination without discrimination) with a “sender-pays” system. (You may remember similar issues coming up in the United States during the net neutrality debates.
I keep being asked by journalists why well-meaning people like ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Toure are supporting the “access charge” proposals, that are warmed over ETNO rejects. I really do not know. I can only speculate. It may be that he has spent too much time in the rarefied climes of Geneva talking to CEOs of European telecom operators and participating in their “Twitter Storms,” and not enough looking at research on what is actually driving Internet use among the poor in his continent and mine. My colleague Alison Gillwald heads RIA which conducts such research.
From months back LIRNEasia’s focus was on the economic aspects of the WCIT proposals, specifically the mad proposal floated by ETNO to impose access charges on data flowing into a network, the sending-party-network-pays principle. This is the real debate in Dubai according to even early apologists for the ITU. More energy is expected to be spent on how companies make money off the Internet. In one submission to the conference, the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association, a lobbying group based in Brussels that represents companies like France Télécom, Deutsche Telekom and Telecom Italia, proposed that network operators be permitted to assess charges for content providers like Internet video companies that use a lot of bandwidth. Analysts say the proposal is an acknowledgment by European telecommunications companies that they cannot hope to provide digital content.