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World Telecommunications Policy Forum

How ISOC Chapters and Members can reach out to their governments

23 February 2009 - The Internet Society prepares for the International Telecommunication Union World Telecommunication Policy Forum 2009:

The ITU World Telecommunication Policy Forum will be held in Lisbon, Portugal, from 22-24 April, 2009. It will be preceded on 21 April by a Strategic Dialogue on ICTs to discuss strategies to protect the ICT sector during the economic downturn, and ways that ICTs can contribute to economic recovery. Organized by the ITU, the Forum is a multi-stakeholder event, open to Sector Members, ICT professionals from all sectors as well as interested members from the general public. It is not designed to produce prescriptive outcomes with the binding force of an international treaty; rather, it aims at fostering debate and if possible building a multi-stakeholder consensus on ways forward. "Opinions " reflecting the participants' consensus and the Chair's report are the official outcomes of the Forum.

As an ITU Sector Member, the Internet Society has been participating in preparations for the WTPF as a member of the Informal Experts Group. ISOC staff will participate in the WTPF to offer other delegates factual information about the Internet to help shape discussions of the four themes of the Forum, which are:

  • Convergence and Internet-related public policy matters
  • Next-generation networks
  • Emerging telecommunication policy and regulatory issues
  • International Telecommunication Regulations.

ISOC is preparing fact sheets and documents focusing on the WTPF issues that will be posted on our web site. These documents aim to inform government officials and other WTPF attendees about several issues that are important to the Internet. The papers will address IPv6, Internet standards, and the importance of maintaining a user-centric Internet, and other issues for the conference.

As an ISOC member, you can help to get this information to your government officials before the Forum, so that they will be able to have a better understanding of these issues during discussions. You may also want to use this opportunity to let your government know that it is important that the open development, evolution and use of the Internet be protected and expanded for the benefit of people throughout the world.

Some governments have established mechanisms to consult their citizens on ITU matters; others have not. Thus, the first step will be to find the government department that represents your country at the ITU. The ITU web site has a comprehensive list of its members including contact information available. You will notice at the bottom of each entry there is contact information for the Permanent Mission of the country in Geneva. Very often, the country's participation in the ITU is carried out by the Perma nent Missions in Geneva. In many cases, the Mission may not get specific instructions from the Ministry or the Agency on time and so Mission staff have to vote without expert guidance. Therefore, it can be very useful for ISOC chapters and members to contact the Permanent Missions in Geneva, using the email addresses provided on the ITU site. The list also shows the names of companies and organizations that are ITU Sector members in each country.

Once you have identified the contact, the best approach is probably to write an email to the contact person, identifying yourself as an ISOC member, and explaining that you are aware of the WTPF, and would like to provide some information about key issues under discussion. You should include the URL for the ISOC material on the web site, which is: http://www.isoc.org/ituwtpf. You might also want to offer to meet with the officials to provide information about the issues.

In addition to the topics covered by the fact sheets, it would be helpful if you explain to the delegates the importance of the principles that have made the Internet the powerful force it is today. ISOC President and CEO, Lynn St. Amour recently made an excellent speech explaining this point. An excerpt is included in the Annex to this note, and the full text of the speech is on the ISOC web site.

This is an important message for your government to hear. As outlined in ISOC's background paper on the WTPF, the topics being discussed in Lisbon in April are vital to the future of the Internet. You can help to ensure that your government is well informed as they prepare to take part in the Forum, so that they can make good decisions and encourage the growth of the Internet for all.

If you do reach out to your government, please let us know. If you think it would be good for ISOC staff to try to connect with the officials you speak to while they are in Lisbon, please be sure to send their full name to the email address below.

Please also let me know if you find this document useful, or if you have any suggestions about how it could be improved. We on the ISOC staff are interested in working with chapters and members to make a difference in the world's Internet policy framework. Your feedback is an important component of that effort.

Comments and questions to:
Bill Graham
Strategic Global Engagement
The Internet Society
graham@isoc.org

Annex: Excerpt from Lynn St. Amour's speech "The role of ICT to ensure a global sustainable future," Brussels, 22 January 2009.

In the Internet community, we talk a lot about the open, collaborative Internet Model, because the success and value of the Internet unequivocally lies in its development and management model.

The Internet is a network of tens of thousands of networks, drawing overall resilience from this distributed responsibility.

It works because of the collaborative engagement of many organizations and individuals from across the world. People and organizations from many backgrounds and with different expertise are involved: private sector, civil society, government officials, academics, and researchers.

The development of the Internet is based on open standards, mainly developed through the Internet Engineering Task Force. They are openly developed, and broadly and freely distributed. Participation is based on knowledge, need, and interest, rather than formal membership.

And finally, the Internet Model is based on widely supported key principles, such as the "end-to-end principle," which supports the global deployment of innovative, and often surprising applications. Those who create applications don't need permission to deploy them on the Internet. And perhaps most importantly, users themselves choose which applications best meet their needs (hopefully with no intermediate filtering).

The openness and transparency of the Internet's technical development, its associated policy development and management processes, are intrinsic to the success of the Internet itself, and to maintaining the global Internet.

The Internet's development has always depended upon and involved broad and diverse inputs. This is essential, as the Internet is a platform on which individuals, organizations, and consumers themselves build the infrastructure and services that are then globally accessible.

As the Internet grows and continues to spur economic and social development around the world, the policies and practices of tomorrow must grow from the shared principles and the shared vision that gave us the Internet.

This global platform has enabled an unprecedented scale of human communications, revolutionized how we express ourselves and collaborate, and in so doing has contributed unimaginably to the wellbeing of citizens around the world.

However, for the Internet to durably contribute to the wellbeing of all citizens around the world, we all must work to ensure that:

  • people have unfettered, affordable access to the network, whether from PC's, phones or other devices, and can choose from a diversity of suppliers, services, applications, and products;
  • the communications environment is unencumbered by excessive governmental or private controls;
  • the services and applications are trusted, reliable, and stable; and
  • the user's identity is sacrosanct.

Effectively, the Internet thrives, and its contribution to society is greatest, when conditions ensure that users have the ability to freely:

  • Connect
  • Communicate
  • Innovate
  • Share
  • Choose, and
  • Trust

To understand why these abilities are so important, we must recognize that technologies and infrastructure are required for progress, but do not drive progress. People drive progress, and their needs and the opportunities they see, drive applications, solutions and innovations.

But we cannot take the Internet Model for granted. Governments that appreciate the benefits the Internet Model brings must understand how the key abilities I described are affected by both the opportunities governments create and the restrictions they resist.

The Internet continues to evolve at a pace that has exceeded virtually all expectations, and defied most predictions. It continues to amaze us in terms of the technology, what it allows users to do and to create, and in the way that it empowers users and communities around the globe. And while the Internet's emergence was unpredictable, it was not an accident, but rather the outcome of vision, commitment, collaboration and the faith or perhaps courage to let it develop organically.

In the Internet, and the Internet Model, we have the most powerful tools and methods that have ever been at our disposal. Tools and methods to learn. To analyse. To communicate. And to understand. Tools and methods that are flexible, responsive, and through enabling mankind's creativity - self-developing. We have tools and methods to bring together the power of people's creativity like never before - assuming we unleash the power of the individual through the use of ICT to make a contribution, to truly make a difference.

It is easy to make the mistake of talking about how the Internet was developed. The Internet is still developing. And if we heed the lessons of its short history, it always will continue to develop restricted only by our imaginations.

The genius of the Internet is that its decentralized architecture maximizes the power of individual users to choose (or create) the hardware, software, and services that best meet their needs. If the Internet is to continue to be a platform for innovation and creativity, its open, globally addressable, decentralized nature must be preserved.

I cannot emphasize this enough; this is what gave us the Internet; it is fundamentally what makes the Internet "the Internet"

As we stand before these big challenges, it is vital to preserve the conditions that sustain Internet development, for by so doing, we preserve the conditions by which we can use the Internet to help sustain our own progress and development.