Public advocates find a place in a mostly corporate group.
Harold Feld and Rashmi Rangnath of Public Knowledge as well as Gene Kimmelman have long battled government but suddenly find themselves representing the U.S. Terry Kramer has received very valuable support – and credibility – from Greenpeace, labor and other public interest groups. “Multi-stakeholder” is worthless if the only stakeholders are corporate, so this is a smart move.
The five or so public advocates are outnumbered something like 10-1 by corporate reps, as usual. Google surprises by sending four people, even more than Verizon or AT&T. Several “U.S.” reps work for foreign companies, including NTT, Sony and Ericsson.
The remainder are government, led by State. The next largest group are the five from DOD, emphasizing the behind the scenes but dominant role they play. Here’s the complete list, with some annotations that might prove useful. 11/20 FCC Commissioner Rob McDowell and 14 more have joined and I will add.
Here’s the complete list, with a few details you might not find on Google
“We Seek to Bring Internet to All” far more attractive
Hamadoun Touré is winning hearts and minds for the ITU by focusing on helping connect the four billion people totally unserved. The world is responding, with Carlos Slim just one of the strong supporters of the Broadband Commission. ITU actually has very little money or power so most of what he urges is symbolic. It’s an attractive message even if some of his specifics are unfortunate.
The U.S. WCIT position is essentially to say no to any change or active effort. In one case – U.N. involvement in security – I think we’re right. Too many at the U.N. understand security as protecting governments from their own citizens, particularly by eliminating anonymity. But the U.S. needs to embrace the development agenda and urge action.
Africa, the Arab countries and most of Asia do not believe we live in the best of all possible worlds.
“We Seek to Bring Internet to All” is the title of Hamadoun Touré’s article http://www.wired.com/opinion/2012/11/head-of-itu-un-should-internet-regulation-effort/
New America DC event starts with the truth
Jim Cicconi of AT&T, Tim Wu of Columbia, Susan Crawford of Harvard, and Rebecca MacKinnon lead a firstrate event at New America D.C. about “the relative merits of the current decentralized, U.S.-centered governance of the Internet, versus a more equitable, multinational (but possibly more restrictive) system.” Most of the world believes the U.S. runs the Internet, although “U.S. centered” is more accurate.
Brilliant propaganda has imprinted in many people’s minds an almost meaningless concept of “multi-stakeholder” governance, presumably international. Led by Larry Strickling, we framed the debate as “multi-stakeholder” versus government. Unfortunately, the meaning of multi-stakeholder was so ambiguous that ITU is not inaccurate proclaiming itself one of the best examples of a “multi-stakeholder” organization. A repressive Saudi Arabian proposal for WCIT is offered in the name of “multi-stakeholderism.” When you actually look what that means, you discover most of the participants are corporate, dominated by U.S. giants. Groups like ISOC and ICANN are under U.S. law, have mostly U.S./Western European leaders, and we control the DNS. As U.S. NTIA chief Larry Strickling notes “The NTIA has long been integral in the operation of the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which regulates global domain name policy. While NTIA, on behalf of the US Department of Commerce, reached an agreement with ICANN in 2009 to transition the technical coordination of the DNS to a new setting in ICANN under conditions that protect the interests of global Internet users, NTIA represents the US government on ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee and it is still an influential force.”
Africa, India, Brazil, Russia and China feel they’re being left out and want change.
Personally, I think that’s fair but also fear a heavy hand of government. Cicconi of AT&T is a good choice to present the government opinion. Even FCC Commissioners have told me he runs the FCC and policy, although that’s not always true. Most of the other speakers are not part of the current DC hive mind of these topics and have a much deeper commitment to the net than the former telco lobbyists dominating State.
The corporate hand is strong at State.Ambassador Verveer is a former Bell lobbyist via CTIA. Ambassador Kramer is out of Verizon Wireless. Ambassador Gross is being paid by big companies, presumably including the Bells. I believe all are making a good faith effort to serve the public, not the corporate interest. But their worldview was shaped where Internet Freedom is not central.
Very strong program and important to bring the discussion closer to the truth.
Ms. Schaake: Don’t blindly follow the U.S. (my opinion)
Tuesday 20 November members of the Euro Parliament will meet to draft a resolution on WCIT. Marietje Schaake has posted a draft from the ALDE group at http://www.marietjeschaake.eu/2012/11/request-for-comments-draft-parliamentary-resolution-on-wcit-2012/ (below) and included her email. It seems a serious request for comments.
She calls for free speech and net neutrality and many other good things. But nowhere does she make concrete proposals for a development agenda. There are no proposals for change, as though we are living in the best of all possible worlds. The current Internet system is miserably failing 2/3rds of the people of the world, who have no connection. Her beloved “free markets” are great when they work, but even in rich countries the corporate system is doing a poor job of reaching the rural and poor. Most of Africa and India are rural and poor; competition works some places but has failed in others.
It’s Western arrogance to ignore the urgency of expanding the net. It’s also a terrible way to win hearts and minds. Good to see a politician working in the open.
Multi-Stakeholder meaningless if stakeholders all corporate
By joining ITAC – free and open to all – you can be a meaningful part of the process and have impact on U.S. policy. All the big tech companies – Microsoft, Cisco, Google, AT&T, Verizon and two dozen more – use the ITAC meetings and mailings to have a say. Over 100 independents are getting the once secret documents of the ITU, regular briefings from Ambassador Terry Kramer and top State officials (Dick Brainerd included) and questions answered.
With Kramer’s encouragement, I and Mike Masnick at Techdirt publicized how to join and the response was remarkable. Three prominent professors, a former board member of ICANN and many more signed up. ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré at Columbia pointed out ITAC as an ideal example of how governments can get all ITU documents to their citizens.
Terry’s likely to move on after December and the State Department staff will take back control. These include the same people who a few years ago set a firm U.S. opinion that civil society not play a role at ITU. Far too often, I found myself in discussions where I was the only voice outside government that was not corporate. With luck, the success of Kramer’s actions has changed their opinions and they will stay effectively open going forward.
For the record, I sent the below to the WCIT list at State.
Mike Masnick strongly opposed the ITU working to keep patent costs down. Mike has done standout reporting on the expensive absurdity of the patent system and many other issues. Mike is being consistent with his belief, “It’s often best for innovation if regulators stay the hell away from innovative industries.” On this, I have to disagree with him. I believe monopolies, including those created by standards, need rigorous oversight to prevent abuse. On Mike’s Techdirt, I posted
“sender pays/termination charge/enhanced quality of service… fails.” ETNO – the big European telcos – wants a share of online video revenue. Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom, like most Euro telcos, are struggling because landline voice is disappearing and they still haven’t adjusted to competition. Earnings at both are below the dividends they pay. They are looking for revenue wherever they might find it.
Vint Cerf has been following this issue since Dave Farber and Vint’s partner Bob Kahn created the first Internet peering arrangement. He made some comments on an Internet Society list and I asked if he’d explain his point of view on the record. He responded:
“Sustainability is essential for the Internet’s continued utility. That means that all its costs need to be paid for. This does not necessarily dictate any particular business model and one can find many in the loosely-coupled Internet ecology. ETNO has proposed that application service providers pay ISPs everywhere in the world for ‘better service delivery’ for users of Internet access provision.
It is generally the case, in the Internet, that all users (including application service providers) arrange for access to the Internet. Essentially the users (and I apply this term to application providers also) get access to the Internet under local terms and conditions and then proceed to use the Internet for whatever purpose suits their interests. ETNO seems to want to return to the ‘sender pays/termination charge’ model of the past. Recently, it has introduced a variant in which the “sender” pays for ‘enhanced quality of service.’
This notion fails on two counts. First, it suggests that the income from users paying for local access is insufficient to compensate for the cost of providing access. The obvious solution is NOT to charge every source of traffic on the global Internet. Rather, local costs should be reflected in access prices (possibly modified by local subsidy decisions). Second, it implies that the “ordinary” service isn’t good enough quality and that the traffic sources should pay (every access provider) for “enhanced quality of service.”
The shadow of “monetizing scarcity” looms in such proposals. Taken to an extreme, costs for every user and application provider would rise in such a model. In the Internet, demand is driven by the users on the receiving side. Since the Internet operates in a symmetric way, both sides have an obligation to defray local access costs and the intervening networks need to work out bilateral interconnection agreements.
Old business models and the companies that revolve around them are often challenged by new technology. Darwin was right, there are only two choices: adapt or die.”
Personally, I don’t think Deutsche Telekom or France Telecom is going to die. But the solution isn’t to tax the net. First step is to follow Telefonica and sale off some corporate jets.
The Right Question: What Should We Do, Internationally, for the Billions Not Online
Imagine how much more effective the U.S. lobbying at the ITU would be if we had a concrete plan for connecting the 4 billion people without broadband.
Marc Cooper at the Columbia CITI event confronted the nay-sayers who believe ITU and WCIT essentially shouldn’t do anything. We all know getting governments involved can muck things up, but is doing nothing a viable alternative?
“We hear about this incredibly successful space. Last century, the PSTN was a complete disaster for 80% of the people on this planet. 84% of the people on this planet do not have broadband. They have been left behind. They don’t want to regulate the Internet. They want to participate. The economics won’t get to these people in the timeframe they want. What are we going to do with it in the international space?” Marc, a tireless advocate, startled me with this. It’s so obvious, but hasn’t been part of the discussion.
Should we have a Marshall Plan or Kennedy-style Alliance for Progress? Instead of saying what not to do, can we demonstrate some American ideas that could really make a difference? Can corporations like AT&T and Google taking such strong positions “against” find positive contributions they can make?
Ambassador Terry Kramer currently is Dr. No, shooting down the substance of the ITU advances. That puts him in a dark corner of “non-negotiable” demands. NTIA Director Strickling’s comment “We will not accept,” is dangerous. Does the U.S. want to cut itself off from an International consensus on the Internet?
Here’s some ideas:
Five years ago, U.S. asserted ITU is not just telephone. Ambassador David Gross led U.S. information policy in 2006 when he said “One of the great things about the I.T.U. is it has changed over the years, from telegraph to telephone to Internet. We don’t want a major international institution to become obsolete just because it couldn’t change as the world changes,” to the NY Times. Today, he’s a private lawyer leading the charge at WCIT to prevent ITU having any influence over the Internet. He’s funded, I believe, by giant Internet companies and articulates their position very effectively.
“Everyone but the U.S. thinks ICT – Information and communications technology. Only in the U.S. are telecommunications and information kept so separate,” Columbia Professor Eli Noam told me several years ago outside a political context. Noam is the world’s leading public intellectual in the field. . His opinion is widely shared. Both the BBC and China Daily in recent articles describe ITU as the U.N. agency for the Internet. Matthias Kurth, the German regulator who nearly defeated Touré for ITU Secretary General, agreed in his campaign material the ITU mandate covered the Internet.
“ITU is the ideal body to organize a worldwide transfer of knowledge and expertise in advanced information and communication technologies. I would initiate, for example, guidelines and principles to enhance the goal of supporting the most cost-efficient technologies for broadband access, in order to boost their worldwide penetration.”
Change is not good. Terry Kramer is too nice a guy to call “Dr. No,” but that was my earlier headline after listening to his press call and reading his speeches. With the exception of more power to the companies in rate negotiations, the U.S. positions amount to “no substantive change.”
The U.S. is going to WCIT with “non-negotiable demands,” ensuring a difficult negotiation. ITU SG Touré repeated at Columbia September 23 his intent to decide everything by consensus, virtually giving the U.S. a veto. Touré and a large majority of the delegates believe improvements can be made, that we are not “in the best of all possible worlds.” The tension is intense at every meeting.
In his own words, here’s the positions of Ambassador Kramer. He has five key principles:
- Minimal changes to the preamble of the ITRs;
- Alignment of the definitions in the ITRs with those in the ITU Constitution and Convention, including no change to the definitions of telecommunications and international telecommunications service;
- Maintaining the voluntary nature of compliance with ITU-T Recommendations;
- Continuing to apply the ITRs only to recognized operating agencies or RoAs; i.e., the ITRs’ scope should not be expanded to address other operating agencies that are not involved in the provision of authorized or licensed international telecommunications services to the public; and
- Revisions of Article 6 to affirm the role played by market competition and commercially negotiated agreements for exchanging international telecommunication traffic.
and here’s the full speech, as prepared to deliver to the SAMENA event.