Both the U.S. government and ITU Secretary-General Touré have taken strong public positions on making the standards process transparent. As I came to understand the ITU system, I saw numerous ways it could be done without changing the rules. So I’ve written to Danny Sepulveda and Julie Zoller at State. I’ll follow up by urging ISOC and IETF to take advantage of the opportunity.
Danny Sepulveda and Julie Zoller are the new team at State for Obama’s second term. Sepulveda is a former aide to both Obama and new Secretary of State John Kerry, respected by progressives in D.C. Danny told ITAC his door was open and please call on him; my experience is that he’s been very accessible. Zoller (KJ4EMJ) previously was at NTIA doing spectrum work. She has an engineering degree and more than a decade of professional experience at Lawrence Livermore and ITT Satellite. None of the last dozen or so FCC Commissioners has had engineering experience, unlike most regulatory agencies in the developed world.
Several things are coming together to make a natural opportunity to support open standards at the ITU in the spirit of the Open Standards proclamation below. Hamadoun at WCIT and previously made clear he was in favor of “multi-stakeholder” and openness at ITU and I believe he was sincere. I’m going to approach him next week at Columbia and I’m optimistic he’ll be supportive; he’s taken a clear position on the general subject.
For several reasons, I think the coming ITU-T standards meeting in Geneva next month is a great opportunity to make quiet but important progress. I’m writing to urge you to make sure the appropriate people at State watch and support as appropriate.
At Friday afternoon’s meeting, I’m going to propose moving forward to work with ITU-T in the spirit of the IETF-ISOC-IEEE-W3C Open Standards principles as well as Doctor Touré’s concluding statements at WTPF. Specifically, I’m going to recommend that ITU affirm that members, including the U.S. government, ISOC and IETF, freely share all documents with their interested committee members. Touré made that clear in several statements around WCIT and Ambassador Kramer made it so via ITAC. In addition, to promote access by civil society to the standards process, ITU-T should make clear that those wanting to participate may do so through civil society groups like ISOC that are members of ITU or through the liaison status of IETF. I’ll urge the two groups to make this practical and affordable for all members.
One reason this is a good opportunity is that a long term leader of SG-15, Tom Starr of ITAC, ATIS & AT&T, effectively chaired the ATIS DSL Standards Group T1E1.4 which defined the DSL that 300 million people use today. At the time, its work was completely open, proving effective standards work can be done without secrecy. I remember he was very proud at the time the group was open, although he hasn’t opposed the current system.
I hope you’ll personally follow this up and take concrete steps to promote open standards as opportunities become apparent.
On the ITAC call today, I introduced the idea of reaching out to civil society to be more involved in ITU-T. This in in the spirit of Dr. Touré’s call for “multi-stakeholder” involvement at ITU and the IETF et al Open Standards proposal. Because I happen to be involved in the study group’s area and there was a meeting well timed, I brought it here first. But this is about the general principle, nothing specifc to this study group.
I welcome all ideas on moving forward. Within the context of current practice, I mentioned encouraging ITU NGO sector members like ISOC to involve more of their own members in ITU standards; the IETF to expand its liaison to incorporate more IETF members; and the U.S. State Department ITAC to more actively discuss any policy-related issues that arise in standards. The comments from others suggested these were all appropriate. I’m going to reach out to these groups, where I am a member, and encourage moving ahead. Ideally, I then step out of the way and let others move things forward; I’ve plenty of other work.
Steve Trowbridge as head of Study Group 15 said he would be interested in hearing from anyone with the technical expertise who wanted to be more involved. I also think that SG 15 should reach out to those in the developing world to enhance diversity in the discussions.
In practice, I think very few from civil society will be interested in these particular, very technical issues. But I believe it’s in everyone’s interest to move ahead.
I think there are some interesting ways to have a practical effect here, within the existing ITU rules. I just discussed them in the SG15 meeting and will be following up with suggestions.
I’ve no desire to get deeply involved personally, but I saw an opportunity to get some things moving. Toure is in New York next week and I hope to raise some of this with him. I think I’m moving in the same direction State would like to go and if I’m a useful catalyst I would be proud – and happy to step aside if others make things happen.
Specifically, ISOC is a sector member and IETF has an official liaison role. Either organization can choose to use that existing status to expand their involvement and include more representatives of civil society. I’m going to suggest to both that they do so.
In addition, ITAC itself is an open group and can more extensively review the work in standards to see that it corresponds to the U.S. principles.
And I welcome other suggestions how the existing system can be worked to be more effectively open. Bringing folks like Harold Feld on to the U.S. delegation was effective at WCIT; he worked effectively with an ad hoc group of NGOs which Toure met with. Finding modest funding, directly or via NGOs like ISOC to do more like that would help.
As we all know, Ambassador Kramer during WCIT had to address some DPI standards that had been approved – without U.S. dissent – at a recent ITU-T meeting. The press suggested that they clashed with the U.S. position on DPI at WCIT; I haven’t read them myself.
Currently, ITU standards meetings are overwhelmingly the companies involved without public interest participation. Bringing into the process civil society and public interest as represented by government itself I believe can improve things.