WCIT settles into a long night as deadlocks solidify ... into logjam

Names, numbers and addresses, but not the internet


With the asterisk debate postponed, the delegates in Dubai have arrived at the meat of the proposed treaty on international telecoms and are hitting deadlocks which make one wonder if any of them have seen the proposals before.

The USA has been busy reiterating that it wants the ITU to stay in the first couple of ISO layers, well below TCP and ideally avoiding IP too, and will object on principle to anything which smells higher than that - but America also objects to a clause preventing nations from interfering with the international data networks of other nations, and refuses to accept that names, numbers, addresses and identities all existed before (and exist outside) the internet.

The afternoon's locked clauses are 3.7 and 3.8, and a lengthy break for coffee hasn't helped the opposing sides reach any kind of compromise. The Chair is now hoping dinner will give time for more concessions to be agreed before the nighttime session kicks off, but the signs aren't good.

As it stands clause 3.7 states that:

Member States shall refrain from from taking unilateral and/or discriminatory actions that could impede another Member State's access to public international telecommunications networks and services

There's a variation which specifically mentions the internet. The variation is obviously out, but one might imagine that the text above would be acceptable in the land of the free - but it's not acceptable to a country with past form on targeting weapons at communications infrastructure, and one which realises that an embargo on communications will soon be more effective than the an embargo on trade.

But even that is small potatoes compared to 3.8, whose only chance of getting through depends on everyone disagreeing on what it means:

Member  States  shall, if they so elect, be able to manage the naming, numbering, addressing and identification resources used within their territories for international telecommunications.

The key phrase here is "international telecommunications", which some delegates (Iran) take as a reference to to the internet, while others argue that names, addresses and ids were a staple of telecommunications way before the internet came along (used in such places as X400, X25 and X66 respectively) so this has nothing to do with with ICANN or any other self-important Internet group which is feeling threatened at the moment.

Right now the Middle Eastern countries, represented by Saudi Arabia, reckon they've conceded enough and this is their line in the sand, but as the evening session kicked off the Chair prompted gales of laughter by announcing the entire treaty had been agreed before the delegates had managed to get their headphones on - primarily because delegates are so eager to suggest alternatives (and get their moment in the limelight) that very quickly there are as many alternatives as there are delegates.

But with those issues put aside for later, along with the asterisk issue, the topic of conversation isn't how the impasses can be resolved but on the fact that the conference centre locks up at one in the morning and no one is expecting much to be resolved by then ...®

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