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CDT to ITU: Promote Access and Openness, Don’t Stifle It

If members of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)—a UN agency known for its non-transparent, government-centric structure—vote to expand ITU authority to cover Internet policy and technical standards, Internet openness, affordability, and functionality could be at risk.

This shadow of uncertainty has propelled CDT’s recent advocacy ahead of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in December, where governments will update the agency’s treaty and decide whether or not the ITU should expand its authority to areas of Internet governance.

Today, CDT submitted comments to the Public Views and Opinions page of the ITU’s website, in which we state:

  • revisions to the ITU treaty should to strengthen the current communications environment, 
  • the need for the ITU to promote greater access to and the use of communications technologies; 
  • our fear that certain proposals might do the opposite. 

Since last spring, CDT has been working to galvanize civil society advocacy around the upcoming WCIT and analyzing leading treaty proposals that we fear could harm Internet openness, increase costs for users, and threaten the exercise of human rights online. We have consistently highlighted our concerns with the WCIT process, which is neither open to full participation by non-state actors, nor transparent to the public. 

In July 2012, the ITU Secretariat built the Public Views and Opinions page in response to calls from digital rights advocates to open the WCIT process to all actors who have a stake in the future of Internet governance. Any individual or group can use this page to submit comments for review by delegates and the public—but the ITU Secretariat has made no promises on how these comments will (or will not) be incorporated into decision-making at the WCIT.

Although the details remain murky, we have the impression that the Secretariat will not include public comments in the official record of the conference unless governments agree that they should do so. Delegations from all countries should vote to include these comments in the official record of the WCIT

Whether or not comments make it onto the official record, we also strongly urge both government and civil society members of national delegations to review and incorporate these comments into their own testimony at the WCIT. Civil society groups interested in submitting their own comments for the WCIT should visit CDT’s ITU Resource Center, where we have compiled analyses of treaty proposals, critiques of the WCIT process, and a range of tools for advocates working on this issue.