Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

U.S. Won’t Sign On to Global Telecom Treaty Revisions

commodus_thumbs_downThe United States won’t be signing on to a new United Nations telecommunications treaty that may have the effect of bringing certain aspects of the Internet under control of the International Telecommunications Union.

Ambassador Terry Kramer said the United States cannot support the proposed revisions of the ITU treaty “in their current form.” He made the pronouncement in a press conference held by phone from Dubai about an hour ago.

Kramer has lead the U.S. delegation at a conference in Dubai intended to update the current version of the ITU treaty, last renegotiated in 1988. Technology lobbying groups, including TechAmerica, TechNet and the Internet Association, have worried in public that extending the reach of the ITU might disrupt the Internet’s current governance and give national governments more control.

The conference is taking place against the backdrop of a moment in history when the Internet has been a crucial tool for people organizing to stand up against repressive governments. The worry had been that it is indeed these governments that have pushed for provisions to the ITU treaty that could in time lead to more government control.

Kramer said it’s still unclear which countries will sign on to the set of proposals currently on the table, so it’s unclear if the proposals will pass. The U.K. and Canada have said they won’t sign the current version, either.

Of course, nothing about the treaty prevents any country from imposing its own restrictions and laws on the Internet within its borders, Kramer said. There has been plenty of that in recent months and years. Examples include civil war-torn Syria, Libya during its brief civil war, Egypt before that, and Myanmar back in 2007.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik