ITU Not Seeking Seizure of ICANN’s Role, But Wants Them To Work Together

ITU logoUS bodies that oversee the internet’s technical specifications and domain name system are at the heart of speculation over a push from largely developing nations, and in particular the BRICS countries, for control of the internet to be put under the United Nations, reports the BBC.

The bodies that currently oversee the internet include ICANN who operates at arms-length from but officially under the remit of the Department of Commerce.

The report notes that “there has been speculation that other nations will push for a change later this year, but they cannot force the US to comply.”

But suggestions the US would support such a move were dispelled when the House of Representatives “voted unanimously [414-0] on Thursday to approve a resolution aimed at preventing any efforts to hand the United Nations more power to oversee the Internet,” reports Tech Daily Dose.

“In many ways, this is a first-of-its-kind referendum on the future of the Internet,” Rep. Mary Bono Mack said in a statement. “Today’s unanimous vote sends a clear and unmistakable message: the American people want to keep the Internet free from government control and prevent Russia, China and other nations from succeeding in giving the U.N. unprecedented power over Web content and infrastructure.”

Support for change has come from Russian President Vladimir Putin who has signalled Russia’s final submission could go further than the leaked copy of their current submission to the International Telecommunication Union. The BBC reports Russia saying in their submission the ITU could become responsible for allocating at least some of the internet’s addresses as well as the “determination of the necessary requirements”. And then in 2011 he said he was keen to discuss “establishing international control over the internet using the monitoring and supervisory capabilities of the International Telecommunication Union”.

Support for this position is also reported to have come from China and India, but for any change to happen to the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITR) treaty, it requires unanimous support from the 178 nations.

“The ITR is a 1988 treaty which set out rules for how traffic should flow between different telecom networks, and how to calculate charges for traffic exchanged between carriers in different countries,” the BBC reports.

“The rise of the internet and mobile devices has led to calls for it to be revised, but countries are expected to disagree over the changes needed.”

But that unanimous support is highly unlikely with the United States’ State Department in their submission saying:
The U.S. will carefully monitor and study the proposals submitted by other countries. The U.S. is concerned that proposals by some other governments could lead to greater regulatory burdens being placed on the international telecom sector, or perhaps even extended to the Internet sector — a result the U.S. would oppose.

“We will not support any effort to broaden the scope of the ITRs to facilitate any censorship of content or blocking the free flow of information and ideas,” Ambassador Terry Kramer said. “The United States also believes that the existing multi-stakeholder institutions, incorporating industry and civil society, have functioned effectively and will continue to ensure the health and growth of the internet and all of its benefits.”

Dr Hamadoun Toure, the ITU’s secretary-general told the BBC that some countries were unhappy with the way ICANN had looked after the DNS.

“Some people are saying the governments are not consulted enough,” he said.

But he played down the idea in the interview that there would be a serious effort to seize control of its functions and pass them to the ITU.

“Has anybody suggested to take responsibility from ICANN? No, it’s never been done. I truly believe there is a complementarity involved between our work – we can work together.”