Internet remains unregulated after UN treaty blocked

Saturday, December 15, 2012
By Paul Martin

Failure to sign agreement at ITU conference stops governments having greater powers to control phone calls and data

Charles Arthur
GuardianUK
Friday 14 December 2012

A proposed global telecoms treaty that would give national governments control of the internet has been blocked by the US and key western and African nations. They said they are “not able to sign the agreement in its current form” at the end of a International Telecoms Union (ITU) conference in Dubai.

The proposals, coming after two weeks of complex negotiation, would have given individual governments greater powers to control international phone calls and data traffic, but were opposed as the conference had seemed to be drawing to a close late on Thursday.

The move seems to safeguard the role of the internet as an unregulated, international service that runs on top of telecoms systems free of direct interference by national governments.

The US was first to declare its opposition to the draft treaty. “It is with a heavy heart and a sense of missed opportunities that I have to announce that the United States must communicate that it is unable to sign the agreement in its current form,” Terry Kramer, head of the US delegation, told the conference, after what had looked like a final draft was approved.

“The internet has given the world unimaginable economic and social benefit during these past 24 years. All without UN regulation. We candidly cannot support an ITU Treaty that is inconsistent with the multi-stakeholder model of internet governance.”

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