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What is the true intention of some states and 700 private company members of the ITU?

Is the UN’s ITU agency ‘striving to improve’ or to ‘restrict’, ‘regulate’ and ‘monetise’ access to information and communication technologies – ICTs – at the UN-convened World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai?

ITU logoITU cover-brochureThe ITU states that it is committed to connecting all the world’s people – wherever they live and whatever their means, to protect and support everyone’s fundamental right to communicate. It is the only UN agency to have both public and private sector membership, including the 193 Member States, ICT regulators, leading academic institutions and some 700 private companies.

Three alarming sets of allegations:

John C Abell, the New York Bureau chief of London-based Wired, which covers innovation in science, culture and business writes in his Reuters blog:

  • “The ITU is weighing proposals from many of its 193 member nations. Some of these proposals ‑ such as decentralizing the assignment of website names and eliminating Internet anonymity ‑ would make enormous changes to the organization and management of the Internet  . . .

David Hencke warned last month that world’s most repressive regimes, named as including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria – and sadly after the Arab spring, Egypt  – want to ‘hi-jack’ the ITU for their own ends.

He added that they are canvassing over 80 other developing countries, including African and Asian dictatorships, to back a new UN Treaty which would legitimise the right of governments to limit who can access the internet and to support the introduction of a” Sender Pays” model, which would charge a person if his/her e-mail was read by anybody in another country.

The other hi-jacking attempt could be from “a group of unnamed European telecommunications companies who want to profit from this by introducing charges for using the net, including sending e-mails and talking on Skype – being well aware that the decline in post and international calls means the end of an income stream”.

Going to Work, a project of the TUC, makes similar points on its website. It adds that:

“So far the proposal has flown under the radar, thanks to the secretive nature of the ITU, but its implications are so serious that we must act quickly to show the ITU and its member countries that citizens will not stand by while our right to communicate freely is undermined”.

“The proposal would give governments and companies all over the world the ability to:

  • Restrict access to the internet to approved uses
  • Monitor everything done online
  • Change the way we pay for the internet, potentially marginalising civil society and developing countries.

Going to Work concludes:

“An internet totally controlled by government and big business contradicts the very essence of what the internet represents – open and free access for all. The new rules would affect us all, but would hurt people in poorer countries and those living in dictatorships even more.

“Add your name to the global petition we’re running in conjunction with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and ask our government representatives who will attend this conference to reject these changes that will seriously and permanently restrict internet freedoms”.