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World Telecommunications Policy Forum

ISOC comments on first draft of ITU SG Report

7 Jan 2008 - As a Sector Member of the ITU, ISOC participates in the consensus-building process of many ITU activities. At the 2006 Plenipotentiary Conference, the ITU decided to hold a World Telecommunications Policy Forum in 2009. Because the proposed agenda includes a range of topics related to the Internet, ISOC intends to play an active part in the development of the WTPF and ultimately at the Forum itself. In December, 2007, ISOC submitted its comments on the first draft of the ITU Secretary General's Report on the WTPF.

The Internet Society (ISOC) appreciates the efforts of the Secretary General to prepare the first draft report for the World Telecommunication Policy Forum 2009 on convergence and emerging policy issues. The report identifies a number of significant issues which stakeholders must work to address as we seek to ensure the development of an open Internet.

ISOC believes that the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference of 2006 was prescient in its decision to hold a World Telecommunication Policy Forum in 2009. It is clear that the rapid expansion of both the capacity of the global Internet and the development of bandwidth-intensive applications are creating new policy challenges which cannot be addressed by governments alone. The WTPF, as an institution which meets only periodically to bring together a range of stakeholders to address significant cross-cutting issues, is an appropriate forum in which to address the future of our networks.

ISOC offers the following brief comments on the first draft of the report, and looks forward to working with our partners in the ITU in preparation for a highly successful World Telecommunication Policy Forum in 2009.

Convergence

ISOC recognizes how important convergence is for the future of the world’s economies and its diverse societies. The Internet, and in particular the end-to-end characteristic of the network, has proven to be a particular source of creativity and growth. Great care must be taken in considering the policy framework around convergence and other emerging issues not to interfere with the tremendous potential of creativity and innovation by users, and their ability to freely use the network to disseminate their creations. As a key element in that discussion, ISOC recommends that the WTPF discussion of convergence should not deal only with the convergence of networks and services nor only on the impacts of convergence for the corporate environment. The discussion should also bring together interested stakeholders to discuss the parallel need for a convergence of policy and regulatory issues and agencies.

Next Generation Networks

As telecommunication network operators world wide are deploying increasingly powerful, converged networks, raising new policy issues and causing long-standing policy and regulatory frameworks to collide. As we prepare for the WTPF we must take care that we do not take a short term view, or one focusing on a narrowly defined technology. The term “Next Generation Networks” is emerging as one such narrowly defined suite of technologies. Although NGNs offer a compelling model today, and increasingly are being deployed by network operators, we may be sure of one thing: the NGN of ten years from now will be vastly different than the NGN on the drawing boards today.

ISOC believes that discussion of Next Generation Networks in the WTPF must bring together governments, network operators, the technical community and users to focus on the desired policy and regulatory outcomes that must be sought to foster creativity in network evolution for the long term, rather than driving toward any particular technical approach.

Internet-Related Public Policy Issues

The World Summit on the Information Society focused global attention on the issues subsumed under the term Internet governance. The Summit significantly advanced stakeholders’ thinking about public policy issues related to the Internet, and accelerated the debate on these issues. During the WSIS, the Working Group on Internet Governance took a broad-brush approach in preparing a report on its topic. The WSIS Tunis Agenda for the Information Society drew on the work of the WGIG and identified mechanisms for the world to move forward on the Internet governance front, including inter alia the Internet Governance Forum. The ITU is specifically recognized for the positive contribution it can make to progress cooperation on Internet governance.

ISOC supports the discussion of Internet-related public policy issues at the WTPF in 2009, however the section on these issues in the first draft report requires further focus and refinement. The theme of the WTPF is convergence and emerging policy issues, a theme already very broad, complex, and important for the future development of the world’s networks. For the WTPF to produce meaningful and useful results, it will be necessary to maintain a tight focus on the issues. As it stands, the report’s section on Internet-related public policy issues lacks focus, and is backward looking. It draws heavily on the 2004-2005 WGIG report and pre-PP ’06 work in the Council Working Group on WSIS to list virtually all known Internet-related public policy issues, without regard to their relevance to the theme of the WTPF. The summary of issues developed by the 11th meeting of the Council WG WSIS bring greater focus and a more contemporary approach, but are still put forward without consideration of their relevance to convergence and emerging policy issues. Even the four issues finally identified as contentious (the management of Internet resources, the international Internet interconnection, the multilingual Internet, and the diversity of participation in the Internet) are only partially relevant to the target goal of the WTPF. ISOC recommends a complete reworking of this section, based on a distillation of the specific Internet-related public policy issues that require most urgent debate at the WTPF to enable a wholistic approach to the topic of the Forum. ISOC would welcome the opportunity to assist colleagues in the ITU to develop a list of relevant issues for consideration in 2009.

The first draft report is much more successful in identifying emerging telecommunication policy and regulatory issues for discussion at the WTPF. ISOC believes that this section of the report offers a very relevant discussion of difficult issues that should be used to develop the agenda for the Forum. This contribution has already described what we believe could be the most effective approach to a discussion of the broad topics of convergence and NGNs. We would also strongly support the inclusion of sessions to focus on what the ITU, through its Member States, Sector Members and other partners and stakeholders, could do on issues such as trust and (cyber)security, privacy, data protection and digital rights. These topics are being discussed and actively worked on in a range of global, regional, and national bodies, including ISOC and its partner organizations. At the WTPF, the ITU should reach out to such organizations and create a broad, multi-disciplinary forum to encourage collaboration among the many actors that will have an impact far into the future, recognizing the particular expertise and mandates of each. However, ISOC also believes that the Forum should not seek to address topics that fall either predominantly or completely within the interest of any one stakeholder. For example, law enforcement and cybercrime are the preserve of national governments. As a not-for-profit multistakeholder organization, ISOC does not believe that it is appropriate to include a highly sensitive issue of that type in the agenda of a broad, multi-sectoral forum such as the WTPF.

Finally, turning to the subject of the International Telecommunication Regulations, which are highlighted in the first draft report, ISOC recognizes that some of the issues submitted to the Council Working Group on the ITR and under discussion in Study Group 3 are relevant to the WTPF topic of convergence and other emerging policy issues. These should be considered for discussion in future drafts of the report. But it is not clear why it is helpful or relevant to raise them in a section specific to the ITRs. As with the WTPF, the 2006 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference called for a discussion of the ITRs, leading to a World Conference on International Telecommunications potentially to be held in 2012. Preparations for the WCIT will be of great importance for the ITU, and for all those concerned with the basic conditions governing the operation of many of the world’s communication networks. However, in the interest of achieving useful outputs from the WTPF, ISOC believes that it is not helpful to confuse discussions of the vital topics identified for that Forum with preparations for a WCIT to be held three years after the conclusion of the Policy Forum. ISOC is of the view that there are pressing issues that need to be discussed at the 2009 meeting that may be relevant for the subsequent WCIT; however, raising them in the context of the long-anticipated treaty conference has the potential to shift the focus of the WTPF away from its core issues, and to hinder its ability to achieve its full potential. For that reason ISOC recommends that these two important events be de-coupled in future drafts of the Secretary-General’s report.