ITU Council 2011 to discuss Internet issues

On Thursday 13 October 2011, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Council during its 2011 session will discuss four important issues of relevance to Internet governance:

As the ITU is a union, the documents for the Council meeting are only available to its paying members (Member States, Sector Members, etc). But below is a brief overview of the four issues that will be discussed and why they’re important to the wider Internet governance ecosystem.

1. Implementing WSIS outcomes

WSIS was the process that spawned the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). But the WSIS Tunis Agenda also specified a number of “action lines” to be pursued at the local, national, regional and international levels in the wake of the 2005 Tunis meeting. These action lines include issues like “the role of public governance authorities and all stakeholders in the promotion of ICTs for development”, “capacity building”, and “international and regional cooperation”. There are yearly meetings to discuss how these action lines are being pursued, with potentially another summit (as large as the initial Geneva and Tunis summits) to be held in 2014 or 2015 to mark ten years since the Tunis Summit.

There are three WSIS-related documents being discussed at the ITU Council meeting in 2011:

  • Contribution 33: Summary of the 18th meeting of the Council Working Group on WSIS (by Chair of the Working Group)
  • Contribution 61: Elaboration of a working definition of the term “ICT” (by Russia)
  • Contribution 74: Draft new resolution – ITU’s role in the final stage of WSIS implementation and follow-up activities after WSIS+10 (by Russia)

While none of these three documents are directly related to Internet governance, they do have an indirect relationship:

  • The Council Working Group (WG) on WSIS is open to ITU Member States only. ITU Sector Members cannot participate. Within the context of ITU processes, this makes perfect sense: the Council is open to Member States only, therefore it is logical for the Council’s WGs to also be open to Member States only. The potential anachronism arises from the topic of the WG’s work: WSIS. As the larger WSIS process has become open to multistakeholders, having ITU, one of the key bodies involved in managing the WSIS process, limit its WSIS discussions to only Member States can be seen as at odds with the spirit of WSIS. The Internet governance sphere, as one of the topics of contention during WSIS, 2003 to 2005, is therefore indirectly affected by how WSIS implementers choose to adopt, or not adopt, multistakeholder principles.
  • The proposal to develop a definition of “ICT” has ramifications for the Internet. Depending on how narrow or broad the definition is, it will have an effect on where and how Internet governance issues are discussed and decided upon.

2. Dedicated Group on international Internet-related public policy issues

The Dedicated Group (DG) is an offshoot of the ITU Council’s WSIS WG. As such, its deliberations have also been limited to ITU Member State representatives. Since the DG’s creation in 2009, it has discussed a number of topics of interest to the wider body of Internet governance stakeholders, including internationalized domain names, ccTLDs, IP address management, and IPv6 security. As a result of the ITU Plenipotentiary in October 2010, where the ITU recognized the role of stakeholders in the wider Internet community, the DG is to hold open consultations with other stakeholders. The Council’s discussions on how these open consultations will be conducted, therefore, will be of interest to the wider Internet community.

The two DG-related documents under discussion on 13 October 2011 are:

  • Contribution 33 Addendum 1: Report of the fifth meeting of the Dedicated Group on international Internet-related public policy issues (by Chair of DG)
  • Contribution 72: Terms of Reference of the Dedicated Group on international Internet-related public policy issues (by Saudi Arabia)

3. ITU update on Internet activities (Res 101, 102, 133, 180)

The ITU includes a number of Internet-related activities in its Study Groups, workshops and trainings. Three of its most recent resolutions from Plenipotentiary 2010 that provide Member State authorization for these activities are:

  • Resolution 101: Internet Protocol-based networks
  • Resolution 102: ITU’s role with regard to international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet and the management of Internet resources, including domain names and addresses
  • Resolution 133: Roles of administrations of Member States in the management of Internationalized (multilingual) domain names

During the discussions on the morning of 13 October 2011, the Council will discuss the ITU’s Internet-related activities in the past year, including NGN work, the Internet of Things, child online protection, and cloud computing:

  • Contribution 31: ITU Internet activities: Resolutions 101, 102, and 133 (by ITU Secretary General)

4. IPv4 to IPv6 transition

The ITU has been discussing their role, and the role of their Member States, in the Internet’s transition to IPv6 in a number of its forums. It has the IPv6 Group, and it has also help workshops on IPv6, as well as discussed IPv6 at meetings such as the 2010 World Telecommunications Development Forum.

The latest resolution by Member States that endorses ITU involvement in the transition to IPv6 was passed at the 2010 Plenipotentiary, Resolution 180: Facilitating the transition from IPv4 to IPv6. ITU Council 2011 will discuss the ITU’s IPv6 activities in the year since Resolution 180 was passed:

  • Contribution 32: Facilitating the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 as requested in Resolution 180 (by ITU Secretary General)

How to follow the ITU 2011 Council discussions on Internet matters

For those with ITU TIES accounts, you can view the draft time management plan and listen to the webcast in the six UN languages. For those without TIES accounts, ITU publishes news of its activities in its Newsroom.

UPDATE 13 OCTOBER 2011: As Veni Markovski very rightly pointed out to me, he is tweeting the ITU Council meeting from @veni. He also tweets a lot of other very interesting content, so well worth following.