U.S. ambassador on WCIT: Keep the Internet out of this conference

According to Terry Kramer, U.S. ambassador to the WCIT, the United States position is, "Fundamentally, the conference should not be dealing with the Internet sector,"
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

This continues our ongoing coverage of the WCIT shenanigans in Dubai. This morning, I had the opportunity to attend a briefing with U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer, who helped to clarify some of the subtleties of the United States position and the conference overall.

As you can see from our ongoing coverage, there's been a lot of concern about whether or not the UN's the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) will be able to, essentially, appropriate Internet governance.

Diplomatic and legal behavior works a lot differently than, say, New Jersey negotiation techniques. Where back home, we might just draw a line in what's left of the sand and say, "This far, no farther -- or else," when it comes to diplomacy, it's more about the wording of the treaty and the charter of the organization.

This is important stuff.

According to Ambassador Kramer at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), the ITU is chartered for telecom (meaning telephone and old-school networking) and not the Internet. Other nations, like China and Russia, want to extend the charter to cover Internet activities.

His negotiating strategy is to, essentially, hold the ITU to its original charter, which -- by definition -- would blow all the Internet-related governance issues out of the conference.

Kramer is clearly a dude with a clue. He unequivocally separates the concept of the telecom sector from the Internet sector, and said he wants to, "Stay pure to the focus on this conference which is telecom service providers."

He also said, "Fundamentally, the conference should not be dealing with the Internet sector," and, more bluntly, that they're interested in "Keeping the Internet out of this conference."

You can't really be more clear than that.

Unfortunately, other nations have opinions as well. Kramer did say they made progress, because the deliberative body agreed on the definition of "telecommunications." But he also said there is a "Pretty big gap in points of view from a variety of nations" and it's "not an easy issue to work through because it's a philosophical one."

However, when it comes to some of the Russian proposals, like where the Russians want to blur the distinction between telecom security and Internet security, "We draw a very stark line between the two," and, "What are seemingly harmless proposals can open the door to censorship," and, "We're very much opposed to those."

The U.S. ambassador also said, regarding the "most dramatic element of Russian proposal," that is, moving the management of the Internet over to government, "We fundamentally disagree with that."

So, at least at this point, the United States' position is quite clear. That said, if the U.S. team isn't successful in keeping the Internet out of the conference, how much of a risk are we at that the nature of the Internet will change? In that case, what can and will America do to protect the core nature of the net?

For that, we have no answer.

Editorial standards