ITRs Archives — LIRNEasia

I spent more time than I had on working to fend off bad proposals to impose the sending party network pays principle on data as part of the revision of the International Telecom Regulations of the ITU. We succeeded, but I did not really think there were any winners in Dubai, really. Now that some time has passed, it is time for considered reflection. I spoke on this subject in Brussels in March, but the lecture that I gave in Bangalore to the Ford Foundation funded training course was perhaps the first time I tried to develop a full analysis. The work is not complete yet, but hopefully, I will get it into good form as a paper within a few months.

Consequences of the Dubai Debacle

Posted on December 16, 2012  /  1 Comments

The Economist’s take on what happened in Dubai. In the medium term, however, the outcome of the conference in Dubai will weaken the ITU—which may not be such a good thing. Among all the controversy it was forgotten that the organisation actually does very useful work, for instance in managing the international radio-frequency spectrum and developing technical standards. And some of the good ideas about which the delegations could agree may now fail to come to fruition. The WCIT reached consensus on a resolution to create a worldwide emergency number (although this would take years to implement).
Ian Scales of Telecom TV has dubbed the WTO rules as the final nail in the coffin of ITU occupying Internet and ETNO’s demand of SPNP. Praising Rohan Samarajiva and Hosuk Lee-Makiyama for detonating “The well-timed blast” with their joint publication – Whither global rules for the Internet? The implications of the World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT) for international trade – Ian said: It points out that as part of the WTO agreement 82 countries unilaterally agreed to “open up and refrain from discriminatory measures in a so-called reference paper on basic telecommunications.” Most countries also agreed not to restrict the most common forms of Internet services and signed up to a moratorium on tariffs and fees on data transmissions (known as the WTO e-commerce moratorium). Those undertakings therefore run smack-bang into proposals such as ETNO’s, as well as Arab and African states’ proposals for re-establishing a version of the old accounting rate regime (designed for telephone call revenue sharing) for Internet applications.
I had treated the claims by the Secretary General of the ITU that the ITU had facilitated the telecom boom with mild amusement. But in the context of the upcoming Dubai WCIT, amusement is not perhaps the best reaction. Let us begin with the actual claim on the ITU website, more nuanced than that of the Secretary General: While the ITRs were a compromise at the time, they turn out, in retrospect, to have been instrumental in facilitating continuing privatization and liberalization of telecommunications markets. These trends were further facilitated by agreements made in the Global Agreement on Trade in Services in 1994 (Annex on Telecommunications) and in 1996 (Reference Paper on Basic Telecommunications Services). The ITRs contained a key provision in Article 9, Special Arrangements.
Upon consideration, we at LIRNEasia have decided to join as signatory the letter to ITU re the proposed amendments to the International Telecommunication Regulations. The letter originates from the Center for Democracy and Technology, a group I had worked with while living and working in the US. Critical analysis by the Center for Democracy and Technology on the pernicious ETNO proposals to upend the present Internet business model: Internet users in less developed countries could find their access to the global Internet more limited or more costly if proposed changes to the International Telecommunication Union’s treaty are adopted. ITU Member States are meeting this December at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) to decide whether and how to extend ITU regulations to the Internet. A group of European telecommunications companies (the European Telecommunications Network Operators or “ETNO”) is proposing radical changes to the ITU’s underlying treaty in an attempt to wrest more revenue from providers of Internet content and applications.