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Cybersecurity & Standards

ITU Standards Setting Should Be More Transparent and Stay Within Mandate

On Monday, the Center for Democracy & Technology, along with Mozilla, provided recommendations on priorities for the U.S. delegation and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) at the 2020 World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-2020) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Both the Center for Democracy & Technology and Mozilla are deeply invested in creating a healthy global internet, and the NTIA has a deep knowledge and critical role in protecting the internet on the global stage. We are glad that the NTIA is exploring these important questions around international standards for the internet. We also appreciate the role of the U.S. delegation in ensuring that the internet remains a vibrant and global tool, based on interoperable and open standards.

CDT and Mozilla filed its recommendations and comments in order to suggest that the NTIA, and the U.S. delegation generally, should use the WTSA-2020 to advocate for open and interoperable standards in the public interest in ways that are inclusive and transparent, and that recognise the ITU’s mandate within the broader Standards Developing Organisations (SDO) landscape.

Specifically we state that the U.S. delegation should argue against the need for a new, top-down standards architecture for the internet, often termed “New IP.” Over the past three years, Huawei and other organisations have suggested at the ITU that the pace of internet evolution is insufficient for the future of the internet, and suggested a substantial expansion of the role the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) plays in standards development towards New IP.

The ITU-T tasked a Focus Group to examine “Technologies for Network 2030” and “capabilities of networks for the year 2030 and beyond.” However, the New IP proposal attempts to disrupt the egalitarian, multistakeholder, and resilient model of maintaining core internet technologies in diverse SDOs. New IP focuses on a multilateral approach that is far more rigid and fundamentally incompatible with the open nature of the internet, replacing it instead with a new “top-down” internet architecture. Our submission goes into greater detail about what New IP proposes and our technical and policy level responses to why New IP is unnecessary and poses a risk to human rights.

We recommend that the U.S. delegation participate in the activities of the ITU-T Focus Group to ensure discussions reflect global concerns and are decided by diverse representation. This concentrated engagement should extend to other organisations involved in the development of internet and technology standards, such as the IETF, where this work belongs. We ask the NTIA to oppose the creation of a new ITU-T resolution on “New IP,” future networks, or Network 2030, direct references to FG NET 2030 in ITU-T study group responsibility and mandates, or a set of possible outputs in the form of study group recommendations. Lastly, we ask NTIA to reinforce the IETF as the appropriate forum for considering standards development related to IP or new IP in official ITU-T collaboration guidelines.

Our hope is that in responding to NTIA open calls for prioritization of its WTSA interventions, both CDT and Mozilla can be called upon to help inform with our unique competencies and expertise in global standards setting at the ITU, to ensure the public interest is represented going forward.