03 December 2011

The 2012 World Conference on International Telecommunications: another brewing storm over potential UN regulation of the internet

Once again, many companies in the telecoms and information and communications technology (ICT) sector are facing the spectre of a United Nations agency (in this case the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)) regulating critically important aspects of the internet as well as substantially expanding its jurisdiction over the telecoms and ICT industries.

It is important that telecoms, technology, and ICT lawyers, consultants, and advisers – both in-house and outside – carefully monitor the domestic and international preparations by governments leading up to this major international treaty conference as it will potentially have a material impact on companies throughout the entire sector.

Specifically, in December 2012, the ITU will be holding a major treaty-writing conference in Dubai that many countries would like to use to significantly expand the jurisdiction and legal authority of the ITU, even potentially giving this United Nations agency greater influence over internet governance as well as major telecoms issues such as accounting rates and termination charges for next-generation networks, data privacy, cybersecurity, international mobile roaming, and equipment specifications.

In late October 2011, India submitted to the UN a proposal for the establishment of a new mechanism for internet-related public policy activities to be called the United Nations Committee for Internet-Related Policies (CIRP). As proposed, the CIRP would oversee the bodies responsible for operational functioning of the internet and global standard setting, as well as crisis management and international public policy matters.

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