A Russian-backed proposal to give all countries the right to manage the Internet has been withdrawn at a UN conference in Dubai.
The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), hosted by UN agency the International Telecommunications Union, has been running for the past 9 days, with 193 countries expected to sign a treaty on how to regulate the Internet worldwide.
Russia initially put forward a proposal before the conference, stating that all countries should have equal rights in deciding “Internet numbering, naming, addressing and identification resources”. China, the UAE and other Arab states were said to have backed the suggestion.
However, the proposal has been dropped in the face of US opposition, which along with most other Western states, wants the treaty to have as little bearing over the Internet as possible.
In the current system which many countries label as outdated, the US government decides who runs the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) – the body responsible for regulating the net’s address system.
It earned this power for funding Aparnet- a forerunner that helped create the Internet. The US says this kind of process ensures that it can make “agile, rapid-fire decisions” that are not slowed down by bureaucracy, which it argues would be the case if all countries had a say.
“The United States will continue to make the case that WCIT should maintain the scope of the international telecommunication regulations and resist proposals to extent that scope into Internet governance or content,” said US Ambassador Terry Kramer at the conference.
Last week, Kramer insisted that the treaty should not include any reference to regulating the Internet at all; as such clauses could be used by countries at a later date, to censor the operations of Internet Service Providers (ISP).
“Fundamentally, the conference – to us – should not be dealing with the Internet sector,” said Kramer.
“That carries significant implications that could open the door to things like content censorship [or] payment models that we would be concerned would reduce traffic,” he added.
As the conference draws to a close, regulators and other delegates have until 14 December to decide on the terms of the treaty that will become international law.
ITU secretary general Dr Hamadoun Touré has previously said that a new treaty would not be signed unless all countries were in agreement.
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