EU Member States and the United States are among the countries that have refused to sign the new International Telecommunications Regulations Treaty as proposed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in Dubai.
Delegates from the 193 member countries of the ITU have gathered at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai this December to review and update the United Nations international rules for telecommunications.
The International Telecommunications Regulations or ITRs govern global interconnection and interoperability of telecommunications traffic and have not been updated since they were adopted in 1988, before the emergence of Internet.
However, Dubai yielded no consensus on the revision of the ITR treaty.
Instead, on 14 December 2012, the United States and 54 other nations including Japan, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom have refused to sign the final text of the new treaty.
The main issue was to what extent the Internet should feature in the new treaty and the extent of power that ITU is to have over it. Due to the concerns that USA is yielding too much power over the Internet, many countries would prefer regulatory oversight by the United Nations.
This triggered concerns that the governments of ITU states could end up with excessive power to control the Internet in their respective countries, thus allowing repressive regimes to censor online content.
“The final text risked threatening the future of the open internet and internet freedoms,” writes Brussels in its press release, adding that Member States had refused to sign the treaty because “the European Union is and will remain 100% committed to supporting open internet”.
In total 89 countries have signed the treaty and 55 have not. The ITR treaty is nevertheless to come into effect in January 2015. What that means for the future of the Internet remains to be seen.