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World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT)

The first ever World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) was held 3-14 December 2012 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Member states of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) reviewed and made modifications to the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), which define the general principles for the provision and operation of international telecommunications. The ITRs are a global treaty, and they had not been updated since they were agreed upon in 1988, well before the Internet was a public resource.  Participation at the WCIT in Dubai was restricted to Member States of the ITU, ITU Sector Members, and invited international organizations. Only the Member States were able to submit proposals and make decisions on suggested edits and additions to the ITR text.

The outcome of the conference was a new ITR treaty. A PDF version of the document is available on the ITU website.

The most significant change to the ITRs for the Internet community as a whole would be the addition of Resolution 3,  "To foster an enabling environment for the greater growth of the Internet."  While the title may seem benign, many see this as a major and unwelcome leap for the ITU to include the Internet in telecommunication regulations.  It is this specific Resolution that was instrumental in 55 Member States declining to sign the new treaty.   It still not clear what will happen going forward with the new regulations, as some Member States may choose to implement the new ITRs, others will not and some may only follow certain articles or resolutions. 

On behalf of the five Regional Internet Registries, the Number Resource Organization(NRO) released comments on the WCIT process at the conclusion of the meeting. These comments address the lack of true multi-stakeholder participation throughout the meeting and the fact that Internet-related issues were the subject of much discussion, even though the ITU Secretary General had stated before the conference opened that WCIT would not be about the Internet.

What Was at stake?

These agreements could have redefined the Internet and the Internet community's ability to participate in an open, multi-stakeholder process.

Some Member States wanted to expand the ITU's role and the treaty text from traditional telephony network mandates into detailed directives for the Internet and how it operates. Based on early submittals by Member States and press coverage of preparatory meetings around the world, it seemed possible that treaty expansions could have:

  • Restricted community involvement
  • Redefined the number resource management process
  • Changed IP address allocation
  • Instituted controls over content on the Internet
  • Required compliance with ITU Recommendations over other recognized Standards and Internet protocols
  • Described misuse and fraud in ways that will hinder Internet evolution
  • Impacted the structure and economics that make the Internet thrive
  • Added procedural directives to a high-level treaty document

What Was ARIN'S Position?

ARIN participated in WCIT preparatory meetings to provide technical advice, educational information to combat misinformation, and support to the governmental organizations that represented its region in Dubai. As a sector member, ARIN was in Dubai during the proceedings to offer similar support.

ARIN believed that the best outcome for the WCIT was one that:

  • maintained the multi-stakeholder environment to the best extent possible
  • ensured the resulting ITRs reflect high-level principles that are updated to meet today's environment
  • kept technology neutral and does not mandate items that could have a detrimental effect on the Internet's evolution and stability.

Resource Materials

  • Archived multilingual webcasts of the WCIT-12 opening and closing ceremonies, opening and closing press conferences and all meetings of the conference Plenary and Committee 5 are available on the ITU website.
  • ITU press release at the conclusion of the WICT
  • Given the immense amount of public interest leading up to WCIT, the ITU did provide  a WCIT Public Consultation Service where individuals could register their comments on the proposed ITRs.

WCIT in the News

Resources Listed by Date

7 November 2012

NRO Contribution to the WCIT Public Consultation Process

An letter by the NRO in response to the ITU's public consultation for WCIT Read the letter via the NRO

1 November 2012

One month until they regulate the Internet

An article by John Brandon in Fox News

24 October 2012

Experts: Internet businesses should pay attention to ITU meeting

An article by Grant Gross in CIO

19 September 2012

Long Term Challenges for Internet Governance

An event by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) with Terry Kramer, Bill Smith, Sally Wentworth, and Veni Markovski

27 August 2012

The Internet Command and Control

An article by Daniel Thomas, Richard Waters and James Fontanella-Khan in Financial Times

8 August 2012

The United Nations and the Internet: It's Complicated

An article by Rebecca MacKinnon in Foreign Policy

5 June 2012

What Role Should the UN Have in Governing the Internet? A Briefing on the UN's Internet Governance Initiative

A briefing by the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee (ICAC). Hear the Audio MP3 via

5 June 2012

The ITU and Openness

A presentation by Jacob Glick at NANOG 55 in Vancouver, BC. View the presentation via NANOG

4 June 2012

A Top Down View of Internet Governance

A presentation by Jesse Sowell, MIT, at NANOG 55 in Vancouver, BC. View the presentation via NANOG

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