Experts: Internet businesses should pay attention to ITU meeting

The WCIT meeting in December could have a lasting impact on network operators and other Internet companies, the experts say

An upcoming meeting of the U.N.'s International Telecommunication Union could have a huge impact on Internet businesses, and those businesses should help lobby to keep the organization from imposing new Internet regulations, a group of Internet advocates said Wednesday.

Representatives of the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), the Internet Society and other groups encouraged attendees of a network operators conference to keep an eye on the ITU's World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), a treaty-writing conference to be held in Dubai in December.

Even if the U.S. opts out of any Internet regulations adopted at the WCIT, many other countries take the ITU's recommendations seriously, said Sally Shipman Wentworth, senior manager of public policy at the Internet Society. "In many developing countries, they take the treaty itself and incorporate it whole cloth into national law," she said. "If you do business in countries that do that ... this will affect the legal and regulatory environment you work in."

Members of the North American Network Operators' Group (NANOG) should also look at the proposals for WCIT , evaluate how the proposals will affect their businesses, and write short papers detailing the potential problems, Wentworth said. Delegates to WCIT need ammunition in their efforts to keep the ITU away from Internet regulation, she said at a NANOG conference in Dallas.

"Take a look at a single proposal and dissect it from where you sit," she told the network engineers. "Analyze it from a real-world example. Put it on a blog, put it in a paper, send it to us. That kind of work is extremely useful and much, much needed."

Observers of the ITU expect that several countries will push for new, international termination fees for the Internet. In traditional telephone services, telecom providers bill each other for carrying each other's traffic, with the carrier where the call originated paying the carrier where the call ended up.During WCIT, Russia, China and other countries may also push for the ITU to take Internet governance away from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and other organizations. Some countries may push for more surveillance of Internet users in the name of fighting spam or fraud, observers have said.

"There is real mischief and real harm that can come out of modification" of the ITU's telecom regulations, said Vint Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google.

During a question-and-answer session, Patrick Gilmore, chief network architect for Akamai Technologies, disagreed with Cathy Handley, executive director of government affairs and public policy for ARIN, who said there are currently no proposals before WCIT to have the ITU take over governance of the Internet. A number of proposals would create new Internet regulations, Handley said.

The conference is "going to affect every single one of you, whether you like it or not," Gilmore told NANOG attendees.

While the ITU may not be trying to take over the Internet, "stupidity is indistinguishable from malice," Gilmore said. "At the end of the day, if they do enough things, they have taken over the Internet."

Some of the efforts to impose regulations on the Internet may be an effort by traditional telecom carriers to protect their turf, said Geoff Huston, chief scientist at the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre, a nonprofit providing Internet addressing services in the Asia Pacific region. The telecom industry has changed drastically since the last WCIT meeting in 1988, he said, with traditional telecom companies now struggling to compete with services provided on the Internet.

"This is an expression of an industry in deep trouble," he said. "We are plumbers down at the sewage and commodity level. People don't join the Internet and use it because they admire the packets -- they go there for the apps, they go their for the services."

The fight over how to regulate the Internet is a "fight over a dwindling pool of money" in the telecom industry, he said.

"When you've got a shockingly bad, broken business plan that's unsustainable, the best thing you can do is seek regulatory relief," he added. "To what extent are we seeing a bunch of losers trying to promote broken business plans by ... screaming loudly because this is the last gasp of the telephone industry that should have died a decade ago?"

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags governmentregulationGoogletelecommunicationVint CerfAmerican Registry for Internet NumbersAkamai TechnologiesInternet SocietyAsia Pacific Network Information CentreGeoff HustonCathy HandleyPatrick GilmoreSally Shipman Wentworth

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?