US, Canada and UK reject UN telecom treaty over Internet rift

December 14, 2012 - 7:15:04 am

WASHINGTON: The United States is refusing to sign a global telecom treaty being negotiated at a UN gathering in Dubai because it opens the door to governmental regulation of the Internet, the US delegation chief said yesterday.

“The United States today announced it cannot sign (the treaty regulations) in their current form,” Terry Kramer, the head of the US delegation to the World Conference on International Telecommunications, said in a teleconference from Dubai.

Two more countries -- Britain and Canada -- also joined the US in rejecting to sign the new treaty.

In pre-written statements, the three countries informed a summit of the International Telecommunications Union 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 coordinated 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. AFP/Reuters