x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE signs proposal to regulate global telecoms

World Conference on International Telecommunications, currently held in Dubai, is a chance for governments to decide the future of global telecoms regulation.

DUBAI // A set of proposals for global regulation of the internet submitted this weekend will be opposed by the US, a senior diplomat says.

The proposals, submitted by the UAE at the plenary session of a UN conference on Friday, contain new measures for governments to tackle spam and monitor cross-border traffic.

They come in the middle of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), held in Dubai, where governments are meeting to decide the future of global telecoms regulation.

Terry Kramer, head of the US delegation, said the fact the proposals were not submitted before the start of the conference on December 3, was a concern.

"The whole purpose here is to give time to nations to look at proposals that are coming in, to talk to their own stakeholders and make sure they have a chance to share views," Mr Kramer said.

The proposal has not yet been distributed to participating member states. A spokesman for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which is organising the conference, said the document was not yet fully translated.

"The translators are working hard but there is always a huge amount of work before each meeting," the spokesman said. "Apparently there's nothing new in it. It's a recompilation of existing stuff."

What appeared to be a draft English version was leaked by the civil-rights group WCIT Leaks. It contained several controversial proposals over regulation of domain names and internet traffic, originally submitted by Russia but later withdrawn.

The ITU secretary general, Hamadoun Toure, this weekend said the document was a compromise text.

The document has been signed by Russia, China, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Sudan.

But Mr Kramer said the document had not been officially validated for discussion, and even if it was, he would oppose it at the next plenary session this evening.

"We don't really consider it as a compromise document," he said. "We find a lot of the elements worrisome and harsh in nature.

"A lot of the elements that were in the original Russian proposal are now in this broader proposal that the UAE has forwarded and China has signed.

"The conference was set up to talk about telecommunications. This proposal is a radical departure from that charter of issues we were supposed to be here to discuss.

"Once the scope of the conference moves to the internet, and you start putting in language about traffic routing, spam or content-related issues, you open the door for potential censorship.

"That would have a negative impact on free speech, and the economic vibrancy of the internet, and we are very much opposed to that recommendation."

mcroucher@thenational.ae