ITU Secrecy Disappearing as U.S. ITAC Open to All

Join me and make a difference. 303,000,000 Americans have just been offered access to the notoriously secret ITU WCIT documents. Just join ITAC, the State Department International Telecommunications Advisory Committee, and enjoy access. “It takes a simple email with a request to be placed on the ITAC listserv, based on some material interest in a given topic,” Paul Najarian of State writes. Simply send an email to join and you automatically have access to ITAC. That’s actually proving true, and email me if you need details how to make this work for you. Until now, no one knew about it so almost no one applies except insiders. It’s really that simple. I’ve recommended three people and they were all treated respectfully.

  Uncle Sam wants you, as  Ambassador Terry Kramer makes clear below and confirmed to me in a brief phone call. “We welcome all interested stakeholders to participate in our WCITpreparatory process and help the U.S. Government form positions in advance of the conference.  We solicit this input and feedback through the United States International Telecommunications Advisory Committee (ITAC).” His colleague, Ambassador Phil Verveer testified to Congress, that ITAC is “open to all interested parties to review and advise on the regional and national contributions to WCIT as they are submitted.” 
    To my amazement, the discussions are substantive.

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ITU Opens High-Level Patent Round Table To Civil Society

Touré working to allow participation. The October 10th Geneva event on “Innovation-stifling use of intellectual property” is open to “any individual or company from a country which is a member of ITU who wishes to contribute to the work,” spokesperson Sarah Parkes writes me. Dr. Touré’s initiative to open all the WCIT proceedings was defeated, although some key documents are being made public. 
“Participation is open to ITU Member States, ITU Sector Members, Associates and Academic Institutions and to any individual or company from a country which is a member of ITU who wishes to contribute to the work. The event is free of charge but no fellowships will be granted. Follow-up enquiries should apparently be addressed to” I asked about the role of civil society because the press release (below) spoke only of “a high-level roundtable discussion between standards organizations, key industry players and government officials.” Geneva hotels are expensive, so those without corporate sponsors might consider the hostels, which are remarkably clean. An advantage to the city is that chocolate is considered a food group and occupies a whole isle in the last store I visited. Glad to see more evidence the ITU is opening up. This is an important issue.


Here’s the original release.


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ITU: “Members Free To Publish Any Documents” – And They Will, I’m Told

Despite government doubts, Touré looking to open. Credible rumors are that several countries will release all the WCIT documents even if the ITU Council refused to do so.  This is a smart move to defang opposition to the WCIT treaty, coming in force from both right and left in the United States. Opposing a powerful treaty being conceived behind closed doors is easy for anyone. It will be far harder to rally support against the actual provisions, nearly all of which are cloaked in obscure diplomatic language. Most will be so abstract no one can be sure what they mean or why to oppose them. Few will read all the documents because they are incredibly boring.

    Sarah Parkes of ITU emailed me “all Member States are free to publish any documents they see fit as part of their national consultation process.” Emphasis in the original. She added “all ITU members have always been free to share any of the WCIT docs as part of their own consultation process, entirely as they see fit.” more, including the ITU release 

Ben of Alcatel: Regulators Reducing Competition, Raising Prices

Under pressure from France Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica and the ETNO gang. A First Look. CEO Ben Verwaayan of Alcatel told shareholders he believes European regulators are profoundly changing their priorities.He believes they will stop their efforts to reduce the cost of unbundling copper to the home and backhaul from smaller exchanges. This directly affects the costs of competitors and almost certainly consumer prices. In addition, he believes that the competitive rules on “next generation networks” – mostly fiber/DSL upgrades – will be modified.

This corresponds to how I read the contradictory statement below from EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes. Ben is glad, because he thinks the telcos will invest substantially more because they will be making more money through the higher prices and weaker competition. This may be true in the short run; the big telcos, starting with BT, have been holding off on deployments they need to make, partly as a means to put pressure on the regulator. But once that effect passes, both Kroes and Verwaayen are almost certainly wrong, based on the U.S. experience. Killing competitors has resulted in less fiber investment, as both Verizon and AT&T cut back their plans.

Increased income for telcos in the absence of strong competition is far more likely to go to shareholder dividends than to further investment. Investment is far more effectively induced by strong competition, which scares the carrier into a fear of going out of business if they don’t invest. Without that fear, carriers will use any available money for shareholders, not networks. This is especially true now that CEOs are being paid tens of millions in options and stock rights. That gives them enormous personal incentive to keep the stock price high and the public interest be damned. They’ll probably have moved on before the company feels the effects of underinvestment.

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Hamadoun Touré is an Africanist

Ban Kagame Slim Toure courtesy ITUHamadoun Touré is an Africanist both in public concerns and personal life. He is deeply committed to improving social conditions in Africa. He’s steered many ITU programs to paying special attention to African needs, including the new Conformance and Interoperability initiative. African technologists such as Joshua Peprah of Ghana often are recognized by ITU awards. He’s ahead of most of us; Africa in a few years will have more Internet users than Europe. There are 360M mobiles among Africa’s billion people, expanding at 15%/year. In the next few years most will upgrade and have an net connection. It’s time to start thinking about about a net with more Africans than Americans.

       Touré presents himself in the dignified suit of the Western businessman but has not been subsumed by Euro-American culture. His friends tell me he’s maintained a fierce pride about his African origins. He became neither Russian while studying in the Soviet union nor French-Swiss after a decade in Geneva.  He was born in the desert city, Timbuktu, 1953 in the French colony Mali as a new era approached.  His father was a civil servant and he was an only child who grew up in comfort.

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