Request for comments: Draft Parliamentary resolution on WCIT-2012 (text has been tabled)

Next week the European Parliament will have a debate on the upcoming WCIT-2012 in Dubai.

All the political Groups in the Parliament are currently working on their draft Resolution, setting out their ideas and priorities. Tuesday next week, in Strasbourg, MEPs will work on a joint text.  I’m working on the draft text for the Liberal Group (ALDE), and would like to take your ideas and comments on board.

Please let me know what you think of the draft text below and send me all our ideas and comments on marietje.schaake@europarl.europa.eu

Thank you.

Best wishes,

Marietje Schaake

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European Parliament resolution on the Forthcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-2012) of the International Telecommunications Union, and the possible expansion of the scope of international telecommunication regulations

The European Parliament,

–        having regard to Directive 2009/140/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2009 amending Directives 2002/21/EC on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services, 2002/19/EC on access to, and interconnection of, electronic communications networks and associated facilities, and 2002/20/EC on the authorisation of electronic communications networks and services,

–        having regard to Directive 2009/136/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2009 amending Directive 2002/22/EC on universal service and users’ rights relating to electronic communications networks and services, Directive 2002/58/EC concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector and Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 on cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws,

–        having regard to the Directive 2002/77/EC of 16 September 2002 on competition in the markets for electronic communications networks and services,

–        having regard to the European Parliament resolution of 17 November 2011 on the open internet and net neutrality inEurope,

–        having regard to the European Parliament resolution of 15 June 2010 entitled ‘Internet governance: the next steps,’

–        having regard  to the Commission proposal for a Council decision on Establishing the EU Position for the review of the International Telecommunications Regulations to be taken at the World Conference on International Telecommunications or its preparatory instances COM(2012) 430 final,

–    having regard to Rule 110 of its Rules of Procedure,

A.     The International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) were adopted by the World Administrative Telegraphy and Telephone Conference inMelbournein 1988 and have not been revised since;

B.     The 27 Member States of the European Union are signatories of these ITRs;

C.     The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has called for a meeting inDubaifrom 3 until 14 December 2012, named the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), to agree to a new text for these ITRs

  1. Calls on the Council and Commission to ensure that any changes to the International Telecommunication Regulations will be compatible with the EU acquis and further the Union’s objectives and interests to advance the internet as a public place, where human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly freedom of expression and assembly, are respected, as well as free market principles, net neutrality and entrepreneurship are ensured;
  2. Stresses that some ITRs reform proposals being presented by the member nations of the ITU would negatively impact the internet, its architecture, operations, content, security, business relations, internet governance and the free flow of information online;
  3. Is concerned that among these ITU reform proposals there is the establishment of specific interconnection charging mechanisms, which could seriously threat the open and competitive nature of the internet by driving up prices and hurting innovation;
  4. Believes that as a consequence of some of the proposals presented, the ITU itself could become the ruling power of the Internet which could end the present bottom-up multi-stakeholder model;
  5. Believes that the ITU, or any other single international institution, is not the appropriate body to assert regulatory authority over the Internet;
  6. Calls on the EU Member States to prevent any changes to the International Telecommunication Regulations which would be harmful to the openness of the Internet, net neutrality, access to creative content online and the participatory governance entrusted to multiple actors such as governments, supranational institutions, non-governmental organisations, and large and small private operators, and the ‘internet public’ consisting of users and consumers;
  7. Calls on the Council to give the mandate to the Commission to negotiate the revision of the ITRs on behalf of the European Union which should be based on inclusively gathered input of multiple stakeholders;
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7 Comments

  1. Dear Marietje,

    Thanks so much for giving Europeans an opportunity for input to the WCIT12, via Parliament’s draft resolution.

    As an Internet user and someone involved in digital rights, I broadly support the draft statement above. However, I have one question and one suggestion.

    Question: Point 7 calling for the Commission to negotiate on behalf of the EU – does this clash with member states rights to negotiate on behalf of themselves in the intergovernmental WCIT12 process? (This is purely a question for information, not a rhetorical one, as I understand the member states can each send a delegation.)

    Suggestion: include in the draft proposal a strong concern that the process is NOT a multistakeholder one, but rather intergovernmental. The only way civil society or the private sector can take part is to be invited onto a government delegation. Even the full proposals to be discussed are not published by governments, despite ‘encouragement’ from the ITU to do so. Holding a purely intergovernmental negotiation process goes strongly against the WSIS decision that Internet governance be debated in multi-stakeholder processes, and UN Sec. Gen. Ban Ki Moon’s Five Year Action Agenda for the UN that calls for ‘transformative, multi-stakeholder partnerships and outreach to new constituencies’.

    So, in summary, while I agree with the thrust of your concerns about the *content* of proposed changes to the ITRs, I think a big part of the problem – and a clue to the solution – is the lack of an open and multi-stakeholder process to negotiate these fundamental rules that affect the Internet.

    Thanks again for giving people the opportunity to have an input.

  2. What democratic legitimacy does an organization have, when it’s merely a cooperation of 700 companies?

    It is time for the ITU to become a full companies-only platform.

    With a clear split between commercial and public interests transparency is improved and UN-legitimacy enhanced.

  3. Dear Marietje,
    Thank you for the opportunity to commenting on the EU Parliament draft resolution.
    I am a lawyer interested in data protection, human rights and technology developments: technology – I believe – should be an instrument for human evolution and not an obstacle.
    I broadly support the draft statement above and my following comments have mainly the nature of supportive statements.

    Point 1 – Freedom of expression: Freedom of expression – as noted by the European Court of Human Rights – is a multifaceted right made of three different profiles: holding views, receiving and sending content as set out in the European Convention of Human Rights (art. 10). A fourth component – not specifically mentioned in the ECHR but recognised as included in the freedom of expression’s dimension by the European Court – is the right to seek information. In particular, in Recommendation CM/Rec(2011)7 of the Committee of Ministers to member states referencing a new notion of media, it is stated that “the freedom of expression, in particular the right to seek, impart and receive information (…) are indispensable for genuine democracy and democratic processes”.
    The Internet, in fact, is the medium that more than any other, is capable of satisfying all four aspects. Any restriction to this freedom, according to the ECHR, must result as being strictly necessary in a democratic society (i.e. it must correspond to a “pressing social need” and be proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued). Examples of legitimate restrictions include the protection of the rights of others, so relevant in a pluralistic and democratic society, or the “abuse of rights” (i.e. expressions which would be contrary to the spirit of the ECHR are denied protection, see Norwood v. the United Kingdom).

    Point 2 – Dilemma self regulation vs. prescriptive approach: With regard to the Internet, an immediately evident concern refers to what appears to be a legal oxymoron: in order to guarantee its freedom, Internet governance should be basically subject to self-regulation. On the contrary, in order to protect fundamental rights in the digital environment, an international constitutional convention would be desirable.
    The apparent contrast can be explained by clarifying that Internet freedom could be severely threatened by the set up of a regulatory authority over the medium, thus removing the actual multi-stakeholder governance, or by a centralized system opposed to the present decentralization, a sort of top-down approach which destroys the current bottom-up model.
    With the Internet we are accustomed to the fact that its freedom could be destroyed by the creation of barriers to civil society participation which take away their present ability to cooperate or take away the opportunity of citizens to have direct and active participation in the decision making of the government (direct democracy). The European Court of Human Rights has often emphasized the important role of the media – especially those with greater reach and impact as the Internet – to furthering democratic principles and practices, like public debate on matters of common interest. This is because the salt of democracy consists of having adequate space for public debate and making everyone able to participate effectively in it.
    The Internet, in fact, does help opinion-forming processes within society through the dissemination of information and ideas from different sources and as a forum for public debate. As pointed out in the Declaration on the freedom of expression and information (1982) of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, states “should adopt policies designed to foster as much as possible a variety of media and a plurality of information sources, thereby allowing a plurality of ideas and opinions”.
    The considerable potential of the Internet makes it the foremost “public watchdog” amongst all the media.
    For this reason any law enforcement proposal in this regard is a threat to Internet freedom, whose challenges, so far, have been successfully addressed by “a network of consensus-driven, multi-stakeholder policy forums and voluntary technical standards bodies” (CDT).
    On the contrary, as the OECD pointed out on its Communiquè on Principles for Internet Policy-Making of June 2011, based upon the 2008 Seoul Declaration and 2011 High Level Meeting, “we recognised that the Internet allows people to give voice to their democratic aspirations, and any policy-making associated with it must promote openness and be grounded in respect for human rights and the rule of law”. For this reason, international principles or guidelines interpreting existing human rights in the scenario of the information society is certainly desirable. This process must be transparent and give adequate opportunity for civil society participation; and, in fact, e-democracy is gaining ground in order to encourage effective people involvement.

    Former attempts to regulate Internet: All the great opportunities and potentials offered by the web risk to be periodically compromised by the attempts of domestic or international lawmakers to address specific Internet issues.
    These can range from the need to establish common engineering and technical standard settings (presently based on a multistakeholder governance process by bodies such as the Internet Task Force and the World Wide Web Consortium, which set voluntary technical standards for the Internet) to the imperative of combating piracy (e.g. former US law proposals such as SOPA and PIPA which were perceived as threatening to user privacy by the Internet community and were killed by a global uproar), from governing the Internet naming and numbering (currently administered by ICANN, a not-for-profit public benefit corporation) to implement cyber-security.

    The Internet Bill of Rights- On the other side, in order to ensure that the Internet shall continue to provide the opportunities and freedoms that have been experienced until now, a global movement supporting the acknowledgement of an Internet Bill of Rights is now gaining worldwide consensus.

    It takes its name from the U.S. Bill of Rights because – as well as for the amendments in the U.S. Constitution – the Internet proposal guarantees a number of personal fundamental freedoms which no one should trample and which public authorities should dutifully protect.

    The idea to work on a set of guidelines interpreting existing human rights with regard to the needs and challenges of the information society came forth during the Dialogue Forum on Internet Rights in Rome, September 2007.

    Later, the right to Internet access was included in the recommendations made regarding the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression in a May 2011 report to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.

    Point 5: ITU as the regulatory authority over Internet- It is normal to question what the consequences of a deadlock situation or of a political international contrast – so frequent in the UN environment – could be should they, one day, be in charge of technical Internet or operational matters.

    Point 6: Civil society participation: The proposal to expand ITU’s authority over Internet, as rightly emphasyzed, “could fundamentally change how the Internet is regulated and governed” therefore policy and regulation “should be shaped in consultation with all stakeholders,” including civil society, which must be given a chance to participate in any debate regarding the future of the Internet. The US government is against governmental proposals to replace the Internet’s decentralized and open system – deemed as the main reason of the impetuous development of the medium – while American society, and civil society at large, is afraid that the move might lead to an era of unprecedented control over what people can say and do online.

    All the best.

  4. I worked on WSIS in 2003 and 2005. My survey nowadays of analyses in the run-up to WCIT has shown that the greatest threats to Internet freeedom should be sought in the power being amassed in the Government Advisory Council (GAC) in ICANN (“Do not scoff at the risk that GAC will turn into a de facto UN for the Internet,” Mueller, 1) and the central issues of interconnection fees and funding flows (Mueller, 2). At WSIS I got to know Milton Mueller and to respect his views such as, Mueller, 1, http://www.internetgovernance.org/2012/08/08/reform-icanns-governmental-advisory-committee-multi-stakeholderize-it/
    Mueller, 2, http://www.internetgovernance.org/2012/06/07/threat-analysis-of-wcit-part-2-telecommunications-vs-internet/

  5. Dear MEP Schaake,

    The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) applauds the efforts of the European Parliament to promote openness and the exercise of human rights on the Internet at the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). We thank you for the opportunity to comment on the EP Draft Resolution on the WCIT.

    We offer the following points to support items in the Draft Resolution:

    Like many civil society advocates, we wish to raise concern about the closed, non-transparent nature of the WCIT process.

    The WCIT process lacks the transparency, openness, and inclusiveness of all relevant stakeholders that are imperative under commitments made at the ITU’s World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) in Tunisia in 2005. WSIS outcome documents recognize the need for a multi-stakeholder approach in technical management and policy decision-making for ICTs. The Tunis Agenda for the Information Society urges international organizations “to ensure that all stakeholders, particularly from developing countries, have the opportunity to participate in policy decision-making … and to promote and facilitate such participation.” Such participation depends on transparency and openness of process at every stage of substantive and procedural dialogue; we believe that preparations for the WCIT 2012 have not adhered to these commitments.
    The Tunis Agenda can be found here: http://www.itu.int/wsis/docs2/tunis/off/6rev1.html

    The ITU Secretariat and Member States can still take measures to increase transparency and openness during the WCIT. We understand from ITU Secretariat staff that on the opening day of the WCIT (December 3), Member States may raise a motion to allow unaffiliated civil society members to attend conference sessions and to webcast sessions to the public. We strongly urge all Member States to vote in favor of such measures, as they will increase the degree to which civil society and other stakeholders may participate in the process.

    We also wish to raise two points of substantive relevance to the ITRs that may deserve mention in the Draft Resolution.

    Item 4 of the Draft Resolution notes that, “as a consequence of some of the proposals presented, the ITU itself could become the ruling power of the Internet which could end the present bottom-up multi-stakeholder model.” In order to avoid such an outcome, we recommend calling on Member States to support existing definitions within the ITRs, including those of “telecommunications” and “recognized operating agencies”. Maintaining the existing definitions of these terms is imperative to preserving the present scope and sphere of influence of the ITRs.

    Many of the concerns raised in the Draft Resolution echo resolutions that the UN Human Rights Council has issued regarding human rights and the Internet. We recommend highlighting UNHRC Resolution A/HRC/20/L13, which affirms that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online” and has been signed by over seventy countries, all of which are ITU Member States. The Resolution states the Council’s intent to “continue its consideration of the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, on the Internet and in other technologies, as well as of how the Internet can be an important tool for development and for exercising human rights, in accordance with its programme of work.” Member States that are truly committed to Resolution A/HRC/20/L13 must vote at the WCIT with an eye toward preserving and protecting Internet openness and human rights online, and oppose proposals that could threaten free expression, privacy, or access to information online.
    UNHRC Resolution A/HRC/20/L13 can be found here: http://geneva.usmission.gov/2012/07/05/internet-resolution/

    Again, we are grateful for the opportunity to submit these remarks and hope that the Draft Resolution will help to support and promote the interests of all those who hold stake in the future of our global information society.

    CDT is a US-based non-profit civil society organization working to keep the Internet open, innovative, and free. With expertise in law, technology, and policy, CDT is dedicated to building consensus among all parties interested in the future of the Internet and other new communications media. https://cdt.org

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