Dr. Rohan Samarajiva: What You Need To Know For Dubai -- A Guide to the Most Concerning Proposals at WCIT

By LIRNEasia

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Nov. 29, 2012 /PRNewswire via African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Ahead of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) commencing in Dubai Monday, 3 December, Dr. Rohan Samarajiva, chairman and chief executive of LIRNEasia and former Sri Lankan director general for telecommunications, prepared the following analysis outlining key issues included in various proposed revisions to the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs).

LIRNEasia's analysis breaks down the most controversial positions expressed by Member States in recent weeks and their potential impact to the continued proliferation of global Internet access.

Dr. Samarajiva highlights four key areas that should be of interest to international observers and government delegations during the WCIT:

• Arab States, African Telecommunication Union, & Regional Commonwealth in the field of Communications – New Regulations On Access Charges: The regions' proposals seek to fundamentally alter the nature of the Internet's infrastructure by imposing fees for content coming into networks. The regulation of "access charges" as mandated in the treaty could impose new fees on developing-world Internet users or result in them being deprived of content in a Balkanized Internet.

• Arab States, African Telecommunication Union, & Regional Commonwealth in the field of Communications – Regulating Private Entities: The proposals submitted by these regions set out revisions that would result in new economic regulation of the Internet. Under these proposals, the scope of the treaty has been expanded to address mostly private companies, including entities that are not directly engaged in international telecommunication, and possibly even individual users of telecommunications services.

• India - Infringement Of National Sovereignty: The Indian government proposal lays out new provisions to increase international regulations in ways that would undermine India's sovereign right and ability to manage its Internet infrastructure. Opening the door to the use of mandatory language in the treaty could force India to agree to policy agendas of other countries that may have divergent interests to India's with respect to the Internet or telecommunications.

• UNESCO and OECD - Warnings Against ITU Jurisdiction: Several international organizations have raised warning flags over ITU jurisdiction over the Internet. A UNESCO official in particular claimed that amending the ITRs "will not only 'threaten freedom of expression,' but may also 'incur extensive public criticism that could impact upon the UN more broadly.'"

Dr. Samarajiva asserts that many of the regional and country-specific proposals would undermine common goals of expanded access to Internet services and could further widen the global digital divide. If ITU Member States vote for ill-considered proposals that elevate ITU jurisdiction, the current progress driven by the Internet in recent years to jumpstart developing world economies could come to a halt.

"The Internet is a wonderful platform for innovation and entrepreneurship. In the developing world, young people are busy developing mobile apps because they believe that the barriers to entry are low. Government policy can help or hinder the ease with which Internet users can benefit from this innovation," noted Dr. Samarajiva.

"The first principle of public policy is 'do no harm.' The 'access charge' proposals that are being proposed by the African and Arab States will do harm. More can be done to unleash the innovative energies of our people. But let us begin by doing no harm," wrote Dr. Samarajiva.

Click here to access LIRNEasia's analysis, "A WCIT Proposal Primer; What Participants Need to Know For Dubai."

Dr. Samarajiva is available to speak on the record throughout the duration of WCIT, held 3-14 December in Dubai, UAE. To set up an interview with Dr. Samarajiva, please contact Sumudu Pagoda at [email protected]

CONTACT: Sumudu Pagoda, [email protected], +94(0) 11 267 1160