A U.S. and Canadian proposal to protect the Internet from new
international regulation has failed to win prompt backing from other
countries, setting up potentially tough negotiations to rewrite a
The idea, also supported by Europe, would limit the
International Telecommunication Union's rules to only telecom operators
and not Internet-based companies such as Google Inc and Facebook Inc.
could reduce the prospective impact of efforts by other countries
including Russia and some in the Middle East and Africa to obtain more
powers to govern the Internet through the ITU, an arm of the United
Nations. Those efforts, slated for discussion next week, could make Net
anonymity or the ability to remain anonymous online - more difficult to
maintain and could bolster censorship, critics say.
"We want to
make sure (the rewritten ITU treaty) stays focused squarely on the
telecom sector," said U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer. "We thought we
should deal with that up-front."
Kramer had been hoping that a
committee comprising representatives from six regional bodies would give
quick approval to the American request on Tuesday. But that failed to
An ITU spokesman said late on Tuesday that the talks were
continuing and that the issue would only return to the main
policy-making body on Friday.
About 150 nations are gathered in
Dubai to renegotiate the ITU rules, which were last updated in 1988,
before the Internet and mobile phones transformed communications.
12-day ITU conference, which began on Monday, largely pits
revenue-seeking developing countries and authoritarian regimes that want
more control over Internet content against U.S. policymakers and
private Net companies that prefer the status quo.
The Internet has
no central regulatory body, but various groups provide some oversight,
such as ICANN, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that coordinates
domain names and numeric Internet protocol addresses.
companies have led innovation on the Internet, and this stateside
dominance is a worry for countries unaligned with the world's most
The United States has also led in the
development and use of destructive software in military operations that
take advantage of anonymous Internet routing and security flaws.
of the proposals now being contested by the American and Canadian
delegations are aimed at increasing security and reducing the
effectiveness of such attacks, though the West and several rights groups
argue that is a pretext for greater repression.
Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré told Reuters last week that any major
changes to the 1988 treaty would be adopted only with "consensus"
approaching unanimity, but leaked documents show that managers at the
147-year-old body view a bad split as a strong possibility.
If that happens, debates over ratification could erupt in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.
© Thomson Reuters 2012