ICT groups wary on reported ?Net treaty

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[/caption] The Internet Society (Isoc) and the Infocomm Technology Association of the Philippines (Itap) raised the issue in a press roundtable in Makati City on Tuesday, Sept. 18. The briefing was held in conjunction with a conference that was held at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) to discuss the impact of Internet regulations on local businesses. Rajnesh Singh, regional director for Asia-Pacific of Isoc, said his group as well as other ICT-related NGOs has good reason to believe that repressive policies could find their way in a treaty to the tackled in the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) this December in Dubai. The treaty conference in Dubai, among other matters, will discuss whether the Internet should now be brought within the scope of its regulations (ITRs), instead of the open, voluntary, multi-stakeholder model that has served the Internet so well. The 193 member-nations of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) will decide and vote on these and other proposals as part of an update to the ITRs which were last reviewed in 1988. Each member gets one vote and a majority can enforce changes. ?Based on leaked documents, we understand that countries like China and Russia are proposing sweeping changes that would give governments greater control over the Internet, and change the commercial model of the Internet,? the group said in a briefer. Singh said some members of the ITU are proposing to replace the current system with formal telecommunication like interconnection agreements, requiring content owners to pay additional fees to telecommunication providers for delivering content to users. The vehicle for this power grab, he said, is the ITU — a 150-year-old organization, which started life as the International Telegraph Union and later focused on radio spectrum management and telecommunications networks and settlement regimes. ?The ITU has little expertise in Internet governance and regulation, as the development of telecommunications networks and standards have very little in common with the development of Internet standards,? the ISCO said. An official of the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) said, however, that the Isoc?s statements are merely speculative at this point since the supposed document has not yet been presented for ratification. ?People will be going to the conference with their own proposals. I don?t think they will be adopted right there and then as they have to be studied first,? said ICTO deputy executive director Monchito Ibrahim during the sidelines of the International Contact Center Conference and Expo at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City. ?Besides, the WCIT is just one small component of the ITU. If a treaty is to be adopted, it has to be done at the ITU level and not at the WCIT,? said Ibrahim, adding that private sector delegates are expected to outnumber government officials who will represent the Philippines in the upcoming confab. The head of the ICTO, Louis Casambre, said in a text message that the Philippine government does not have an official stand yet on the issue, although his office is already talking with local stakeholders to come up with a consensus. ?The issues are complex. Our existing legislation is a good starting point, as well as the PDS (Philippine Digital Strategy). DOST-ICTO will be actively working on this over the next few months,? Casambre said. He admitted, however, that ?it will be hard to arrive at a comprehensive position on all the issues. ?I am hopeful we can agree on general principles (though),? he said. Isoc?s Singh said that while the Philippines can opt not to sign the treaty that will contain the controversial provisions, it may see itself isolated if big countries such as Russia and China accede to the accord. If and when the agreement is presented for ratification, it is deemed rejected if 25 percent of the ITU?s member-states vote against it. If it gets the needed votes, each member-state still has to pass an enabling law to implement its provisions. But Singh said the Internet community must stay vigilant since the contentious provisions could still be adopted to give the ITU more political power while giving the telcos the chance to recover their lost revenues. ?This could broaden the digital divide, as some Internet service providers might limit connections to countries with high termination fees, which may include the world?s poorer countries. As well, some content providers may choose to limit access of their content to certain markets only where they have a feasible revenue base,? said Singh. ?This will disenfranchise the global Internet user community as, again, it?s likely to be the developing countries who may not have access to such content, and lead to fragmentation of Internet content and services,? he said. This change will adversely affect many businesses in the Philippines, the Isoc said. “The Internet has become a 21st-century trading route. Regulating the Internet?s openness may take away the innovation, creativity and dynamic growth that has contributed immensely to the global economy, and has helped shape the economies of developing countries such as the Philippines and India,? said Dondi Mapa, chief technology officer of Microsoft Philippines and current president of Itap. ?This may prove to be worrisome since Internet technologies improve productivity and output for SMEs,? he stated. Other concerns about the ITRs include the risk of stifling innovation due to tedious regulation and excessive control; increasing costs and restricting access; and threatening economic development, especially in emerging markets. ]]>

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