Greenpeace and the International Trade Union Confederation are the latest to lay into the UN International Telecommunications Union for trying to grab hold of the internet, blithely unconcerned by the complete lack of any such plan on the ITU's part.
In an open letter signed by the Director and Secretary respectively (pdf, short and scary) the Green hardliners and union folk accuse the ITU's WCIT-12 meeting of taking place behind closed doors, of refusing to listen to non-governmental stakeholders and of planning to seize control of the internet from the freedom-loving hands of the people. All claims which would be scary if they were true, and if they weren't part of a long-running campaign against the ITU in general.
"Several proposals have already been submitted for consideration by the WCIT which seek to undermine the currently free, open and inherently democratic governance of the Internet."
... says the letter, failing in two essential points - no such proposals have been made, and the internet is no way democratic at the moment (anyone remember voting for new domain names?) To make two such basic mistakes in 26 words is impressive, and only demonstrates how poorly thought out the letter is.
"We believe the Internet as we currently know it is at risk from an attempt by some governments to impose solely governmental control over this extraordinarily valuable global resource, which has until now benefitted from a unique system of multi-stakeholder direction."
Responding to the letter the ITU deals with each accusation in turn, kicking off with the oft-repeated refrain that it has no mandate, intention or budget with which to wrest control of the internet from anyone. The response also points out that of the ITU's 893 members 700 are not government bodies and that public meetings have been held, both physically and on-line, to discuss what's going to happen.
Your correspondent has attended one or two of those, and can report that they appear open and honest, but are quite dull.
The ITU also points out that the proposals to be discussed next month are public, following a unanimous vote of the membership that they should be, so the idea of secret deals would be laughable if it weren't so hard to kill.
Some discussions at WCIT-12 will take place behind closed doors, so reps can voice ideas freely without journalists attaching too much importance to them, but the main proposals are public along with a site where anyone is free to state their views.
So again we find ourselves asking why the ITU is under such an attack. The presidential election is over, so there's no ground to be gained by candidates standing up to the UN. The existing system is very beneficial to the USA, bringing in cash though peering arrangements and exporting cultural imperialism by applying US standards of decency around the world, but neither Greenpeace nor the unions have a history of following the US government line.
So we're left to believe that those who signed and drafted the letter really believe that the internet is some sort of cooperative paradise, beyond the reach of mammon, which needs protecting from greedy governments. It's somehow nice to know that such true believers still exist - idealists are to be respected - but they should not be allowed to write policies on international telecommunication networks. ®
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