Beyond WCIT-12: US Ambassador pledges continued support for increased connectivity and access to the Internet around the world

kramer_interviewThis is an extract of a keynote address delivered by U.S. Ambassador, H.E. Ambassador Terry D. Kramer (U.S. Head of Delegation, World Conference on International Telecommunications) at a recent workshop entitled ‘Beyond Dubai – A New Global Agenda for the Internet’ – held in Rome, Italy on 8 March 2013.

It is hard to believe that WCIT-12 was already three months ago.

In the intervening weeks, we have had time to celebrate the holidays and enjoy some well-earned time with our families. But there has also been time for our mutual delegations to reflect on the outcome of the Conference and the ongoing work that is ahead of us.

In my remarks today, I will offer some views on where we go from here. These views are my own, as an individual, since I have recently completed my WCIT Head of U.S. Delegation role.

I believe there is much to do in order to build on the legacy of WCIT-12, and I hope to offer some suggestions on how interested parties can focus on that work.

Positive Outcomes

As I indicated in the week immediately after the Conference ended last month, the U.S. Delegation has never regarded WCIT-12 as a failure. Rather, from our perspectives there were several significant positive outcomes.

The U.S., joined by 54 other countries – including the majority of Europe – was able to make a strong statement about the criticality of Internet freedom – in both its human rights and economic development aspects.

Nations which favored adding state-oriented provisions to the ITRs were largely unsuccessful in converting the treaty into a vehicle for instituting governmental control over key aspects of Internet governance and operations.

The revised ITRs contain positive language regarding international telecommunications, reaffirming the era of private-sector investment, commercial traffic agreements, competition and liberalization.

The Conference brought into the open a much-needed dialogue on how the Internet’s IP-based networks, interconnection, services and content will thrive in the future – allowing the U.S. to make a strong case for multi-stakeholder models.

WCIT brought to the fore the need to engender greater openness and transparency, and it signaled the arrival of civil society and multi-stakeholder groups as factors in ITU decision-making, along with industry and governments.

Bottom Lines

One bottom line outcome is that WCIT-12 has crystalized the need to focus on greater Internet access and infrastructure development, particularly in developing countries. I believe you will find the US is committed to working with other countries to foster accelerated growth of the Internet sector in these countries.

Meanwhile, the US and other like-minded democracies, including those in Europe, I believe, remain fully committed to a free Internet with free flow of information, governed and shaped by a broad-based, open and transparent multi-stakeholder environment.

WCIT-12 was not the beginning or end of the global dialogue on the future of international telecommunications and the Internet – although it may have marked a sharpening and defining of the issues involved.

Follow-Up and Next Steps

Part of my message today is to reassure you about my confidence in the future. I am confident that the US will continue to support increased connectivity and access to the Internet around the world. For a start, I believe you will find the US continues to be engaged on this issue at upcoming ITU-related forums:

The US will use these and other conferences as a fresh opportunity to shape a positive agenda for international telecommunications, focusing on ways to expand access to broadband infrastructure and Internet services.

Meanwhile, I believe you will find the US continues to be a partner with like-minded countries in Europe and elsewhere in engaging in dialogue with all countries (regardless of whether they are treaty signees or not) on:

  • How to strengthen arguments for multi-stakeholder and decentralized governance and development of the Internet sector.
  • How to assist developing countries to set and reach development goals for Internet access and network infrastructure.

In my view, there are several areas for near-term and mid-term exploration within the US and in discussions between the US and other administrations. These include:

Treaty Outcome/Interpretation

  • Discerning the ways that the Internet is, or is not, implicated in the revised treaty
  • Characterizing the effect of the newly created “authorized operating agency” term (and advancing an interpretation with limited scope and breadth).
  • Assessing the effect of adding a new, state-level “right” of network access in the ITRs’ preamble.

Internet Policy and Governance Issues

  • Continuing to foster Internet governance as an issue of mutual concern with allies and through key regional organizations, such as the EU and NATO.
  • Identifying additional venues/forums for governments and multi-stakeholder organizations to meet and discuss Internet policy discussions.
  • Finding ways to support such organizations as IGF, so that they become more widespread, open to broader membership and increasingly relevant to all stakeholders.
  • Identifying best practices to foster enhanced access to ICANN, the Internet Society, IGF and other pillars of the multi-stakeholder governance model.

Cybersecurity Issues

  • Identifying the most pressing and disruptive cybersecurity issues in developing, as well as developed, nations.
  • Identifying private sector, multi-stakeholder approaches and entities that currently address, or could address, cyber-security concerns, including through technical means.
  • Identifying best practices/approaches for the US government to work with these private sector/multi-stakeholder groups in the US and abroad, to address pressing cybersecurity challenges.

Internet Access Issues

  • Identifying the most pressing issues for developing countries with regard to Internet access investment and liberalization.
  • Developing a new, global infrastructure “2.0” agenda, bringing together best practices in network sharing, spectrum allocation and sharing, universal service programs, public-private partnerships and other ways to promote economic activity.
  • Developing a set of best practices to promote and sustain local-level, native-language content and application generation.
  • Identifying and partnering with leading countries and governments around the world (e.g., Kenya, Singapore, Colombia, etc.) to share best practices.

Building & Renewing Ties with International Institutions

  • The US government should remain actively involved in all three ITU sectors (ITU-R, ITU-T and ITU-D) and their working groups, and should foster a healthy working relationship with current and future ITU leadership.
  • The US should explore how to strengthen the IGF, and how to aid efforts by ICANN and other multi-stakeholder institutions to attract wider and deeper international participation, particularly from developing countries.

These suggestions are based on discussions and analysis that our delegation has developed since they arrived back in the U.S. from Dubai. We are bolstered by a sincere conviction that the effort that went into the WCIT negotiations was not a forlorn hope – and that in the long run, it will bear fruit internationally. We certainly hope that this confidence is shared in other administrations, as well.

Conclusion

To sum up, I believe you will find the United States will continue to build on the positive outcomes of WCIT-12. Rather than withdrawing from the world stage, the United States will “double-down” on engagement and dialogue.

The United States will use its leadership position to effectively listen to developing countries, identify effective public-private sector approaches and support multi-stakeholder organizations and forums. Where needed, the United States will explain and advocate the multi-stakeholder model to other countries, because we know it works and already is contributing to the ever-accelerating growth of Internet access around the world.

Moreover, we continue to believe in, and will defend, the human rights principle of freedom of expression and the free flow of ideas over international telecommunications media, including the Internet.

We will seek to do this in a collegial manner, not a divisive one. The world will not benefit from an “us vs. them” attitude – nor is there any reason to support such a narrative. In fact, there continues to be widespread and nearly universal support for the goals of:

  • Developing more widespread access to the Internet via advanced networks.
  • Supporting a flourishing, global telecommunications sector based on interoperable networks, competition and open markets.
  • Creating an end user environment in which consumers can rely on resilient, efficient and affordable network services.
  • Bolstering international cooperation on issues such as spam and network security (outside the framework of the ITRs).

We can build upon these basic goals, continuing the dialogue over how best to achieve them. When the U.S. comes to international forums with constructive proposals, I believe they can expect to receive a fair hearing for them, and we will respond in kind.

WCIT was just a beginning. The global dialogue will continue, and we should dedicate ourselves to moving forward in good faith.

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