Must Read because this event is going to take place in December this year, and UPSC has asked questions about upcoming events too. - Spurthi
International Telecommunications Union
International Telecommunications Union is the United Nations specialized agency with leading responsibility for information and communication technologies (ICTs). It has three main Sectors: Radiocommunication, Telecommunication Standardization, and Telecommunication Development.
Set up in 1869, it is an inter-governmental body that has 193 countries as members, along with more than 750 private-sector companies, organizations and academic institutions. It is important to distinguish between ITU, which is comprised of its membership, and the ITU Secretariat (mainly located in Geneva). All substantive decisions are taken by the ITU membership, usually by consensus, in a bottom-up process based on members’ written contributions and subsequent discussions. The role of the Secretariat is to facilitate that process, in particular by organizing meetings, providing advice as requested, and making documents available to the membership.
ITU secretariat is responsible for organizing conferences that deal with regional or global matters within its remit. In this respect it is convening the World Conference on International Telecommunications 2012
in December 2012.
World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) 2012
The ITU is convening the WCIT 2012, in Doha in December 2012. The purpose of the Conference is to review the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs). Discussions at the WCIT will impact nearly six billion mobile phone users and two billion Internet users. These include 700 million mobile phone and 100 million Internet users in India.
The subject has assumed controversial proportions for two reasons:
1. the countries are divided in their positions; and
2. the issues have split national governments vis-à-vis their own telecom and Internet industry, civil society and academia in many cases.
In that sense, the global divide among nation states is worsened by the yawning divide among stakeholders.
Under discussion are several proposals including:
- cybersecurity, data privacy misuse, fraud and spam, which could give the states more control over content and access to networks;
- new peering arrangements and impact on costs of Internet traffic, which may increase the cost of users, especially in developing countries;
- “new technologies” regulation, which may open the way for censorship through technologies, like DNS filtering, that fragment the global Internet;
- a review of Internet addresses leading to change in the global address registry and how users access websites today; and,
- finally, government-regulated international mobile roaming tariffs which may impact the use of international SIM cards, like Matrix, to lower costs. 5
International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs)
International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs) serve as the binding global treaty outlining the principles:
- which govern the way international voice, data and video traffic is handled, and
- which lay the foundation for ongoing innovation and market growth.
The ITRs were last negotiated in Melbourne, Australia in 1988, and there is broad consensus that the text now needs to be updated to reflect the dramatically different information and communication technology (ICT) landscape of the 21st century.
International Telecommunication Regulations is an international treaty implemented by Member States
through national legislation, without surrendering any sovereign rights to ITU or any other UN body. They are one of the four treaties forming the foundation of ITU’s mission, and 178 countries are bound to the ITRs.
The ITRs set out principles for ensuring that networks can connect with each other smoothly, and that international services will be offered in a fair and efficient manner. They comprise ten articles dealing with such matters as:
1. cooperation among national administrations;
2. giving priority to emergency telecommunications,
3. how to calculate the charges for traffic exchanged between carriers in different countries.
The ITRs laid the foundation for privatization, competition and deregulation that created the conditions for growth in ICTs, including the Internet, that we see today.
Changes which necessitate the ITR review:
- The environment has altered dramatically since 1988, and thus a change is necessary:
- In 1988 the three pillars underpinning telecommunications were time, distance, and location. These have all become significantly less important in terms of global services today.
- Governments have re-evaluated their policies and much of the sector has been privatized and liberalized. Earlier the government was controlling most of the telecom services.
- There is increasing use of networks and applications based on the Internet protocol, or IP, which leads to the growing importance of cybersecurity.
- Technological convergence has blurred the distinction between voice and data traffic, and even inexpensive mobile phones are in fact sophisticated computers.
- Data volumes are rising much quicker than growth in the infrastructure needed to carry them.
- Some companies offer web-based services that are growing in popularity, but which use increasing amounts of network capacity without necessarily generating larger revenues for the companies that provide the infrastructure.
- The market is evolving fast, just as demand is booming worldwide.
How is new infrastructure to be expanded to cope with demand (especially in developing countries), and who should pay for its expansion and its use?
Proposed changes or additions to the ITRs can be summarized under the following headings:
• Human right of access to communications
• Security in the use of ICTs
• Protection of critical national resources
• International frameworks
• Charging and accounting, including taxation
• Interconnection and interoperability
• Quality of service