US WCIT delegation: Embrace open telecom markets

The delegation's new proposals ask the ITU to stay away from Internet traffic termination and cybersecurity regulations

The U.N.'s International Telecommunications Union should embrace free and open broadband markets and allow individual countries to reform their telecommunications regulations instead of attempting to centrally regulate the industry, the U.S. delegation to an upcoming ITU meeting will say in proposals to be filed Wednesday.

The U.S. delegation to ITU's World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), a treaty-writing conference in Dubai in December, will propose that the prevailing model of commercially negotiated agreements to route international broadband traffic remain in place, instead of new, international termination fees for Internet traffic, said Terry Kramer, head of the U.S. delegation.

With a group of new U.S. proposals, following a more general set of proposals released in August, "we are putting on the table our vision" of how the ITU's regulations should be revised, Kramer said at a press conference. The focus of the U.S. proposals is on increasing investment in broadband infrastructure across the globe, he said.

"We believe that the resulting treaty will go a long way toward perpetuating growth, not only in the United States, but in every country, including developing markets," he said.

The text of the new U.S. proposals will be made public this week, Kramer said. The U.S. proposal focuses on telecom competition as the fix for broadband rollout and adoption, not on ITU regulations, he said. "You create multiple choices for customers that generally improve the quality of service and the price," he said.

The European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association (ETNO) and other groups have called for termination fees where the sending party -- the network that originates a Web session -- pays the cost.

Some proposals to the ITU continue to embrace government-controlled telecom networks that get termination fees, Kramer said. "That model, in general, lends itself to fewer providers, higher prices, slower take-up of Internet, slower economic growth," he said.

While the U.S. delegation is pushing a U.S. model of broadband service, a recent New America Foundation study, however, noted that residents of major U.S. cities pay significantly more for combined broadband, voice and television service than residents of many foreign cities.

The U.S., acting on behalf of several other countries in North and South America, will also propose to the ITU that cybersecurity proposals be excluded from the regulations approved at WCIT, Kramer said. The proposed regulations should stay away from issues related to cybercrime, national security or national defense, Kramer said.

The U.S. delegation recognizes that other nations have cybersecurity concerns, but proposals from China, Iran and other countries to regulate information security could lead to censorship of the Internet, Kramer said.

The information security proposals would lead to a "much less vibrant Internet," Kramer said.

A few lines about cybersecurity in a WCIT treaty won't solve the problems, he added. The cybersecurity proposals would "apply a regulatory mallet where technology and policy scalpels are required," Kramer said. "Countries need comprehensive capacity building, international cooperation and training."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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