US refuses to sign telecom treaty in current form
Dubai, December 14, 2012
The US, Britain and Canada have refused to sign a new global telecommunications treaty, warning it would provide a mandate for governmental regulation of the Internet, potentially ending 11 days of fractious talks in Dubai.
In pre-written statements, the three countries informed a summit of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) of their decision, with Denmark, the Netherlands, and Kenya making similar announcements.
The summit chairman broke up the meeting for an hour of private negotiations to try and revive the treaty, but with the United States announcing a press conference at 1900 GMT it seems Washington is in no mood for compromise.
"It's with a heavy heart and a sense of missed opportunities that the US must communicate that it's not able to sign the agreement in the current form," said Terry Kramer, the US ambassador to the UN body.
"The Internet has given the world unimaginable economic and social benefit during these past 24 years. All without UN regulation."
The United States and its allies have fought to ensure the new treaty, which is being revised for the first time since 1988, only applies to traditional telecommunications.
A large bloc of countries led by Russia supports adding language to the treaty that could open the door to more regulation of cyberspace on issues from spam, security and the assignment of addresses to web pages.
The US bloc's co-ordinated snub followed a vote that approved an African proposal to add a sentence in a treaty relating to human rights.
Western delegates believe this effectively reintroduced a contentious proposal that said no country should be allowed to unilaterally deny another country access to communications networks.
"We prefer no resolution on the Internet at all and I'm extremely concerned that the language just adopted opens the possibility of Internet and content issues," Simon Towler, head of the British delegation, said after the Africa proposal was passed.
The treaty was scheduled to be signed at 1330 GMT on Friday.-Reuters