ITU CWG-Internet Day 1: A very brief overview

The third meeting of the ITU Council Working Group on international Internet-related public policy (CWG-Internet, also known as CWG IIRPP) is currently underway in Geneva. Below is a brief report of Day 1. I will provide more detail about the meeting, with proper analysis, after the meeting concludes.

Note: I am attending the third CWG-Internet meeting as a member of the Australian delegation; however, any of the views I express in this blog post are entirely my own. This post does not reflect the official Australian position, nor is its content endorsed in any way by the Australian government.

The role of governments in Internet-related public policy issues

The role of governments in Internet-related public policy issues has been a major topic of discussion at the intergovernmental level ever since the Tunis Agenda was written in 2005 as part of WSIS Phase 2.[1] It was an important part of the discussions taking place at the CSTD WGEC (Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation) meeting last week and was the main focus of Day 1 of the CWG-Internet meeting this week. It will surprise no one who follows Internet governance that governments remain divided into two main positions:

  • Governments who believe there is a fundamental need for governments to begin exercising their sovereign rights to make international Internet-related public policy decisions on an equal footing with other governments
  • Governments who believe that governments should play a lighter role in Internet governance decisions, preferring to encourage various forms of multistakeholder decision-making that leverage the expertise of a wide array of stakeholders.

Day 1 ended with Member States in the CWG-Internet agreeing to draft two questions that will be made available to all ITU Member States on the appropriate role of governments in the international Internet-related public policy issues listed in Annex A of ITU Council Resolution 1305 (document available to ITU TIES account holders). It is not clear whether additional public policy issues raised in some of the contributions to the CWG meeting will be added to the list on for consideration by Member States when answering the two questions. Nor is it clear whether the consultation will also be available for non-Member States to answer as part of the open consultation process associated with the CWG. No doubt, these issues will be clarified today, in Day 2 of the meeting.

Responses to the open consultation process conducted between February and October 2013

There was no discussion on Day 1 of the contents of the 32 responses made by both Member States and non-Member States to the CWG-Internet’s online consultation process. The topics that the CWG agreed in January to open for online consultation were:

  1. Consultation on effectively countering and combatting spam
  2. Consultation on international public policy issues concerning IPv4 addresses
  3. Consultation on developmental aspects of the Internet

It is notable that none of the formal contributions to the current CWG-Internet meeting are on any of the above three topics. However, a number of the Member States have made contributions on the topics as part of the public consultation process.

A number of Member States made interventions encouraging the CWG-Internet to discuss the 32 public contributions as part of its current meeting. It was not totally clear at the end of Day 1 whether there was a plan to conduct this discussion on Day 2, the final day of the CWG-Internet, but there is a strong desire by a number of the Member States present at the meeting to have these contributions discussed.

[1] Paragraph 35 of the Tunis Agenda states:

35. We reaffirm that the management of the Internet encompasses both technical and public policy issues and should involve all stakeholders and relevant intergovernmental and international organizations. In this respect it is recognized that:

  • Policy authority for Internet-related public policy issues is the sovereign right of States. They have rights and responsibilities for international Internet-related public policy issues.
  • The private sector has had, and should continue to have, an important role in the development of the Internet, both in the technical and economic fields.
  • Civil society has also played an important role on Internet matters, especially at community level, and should continue to play such a role.
  • Intergovernmental organizations have had, and should continue to have, a facilitating role in the coordination of Internet-related public policy issues.
  • International organizations have also had and should continue to have an important role in the development of Internet-related technical standards and relevant policies.

The text in paragraph 35a has been the topic of much discussion by some government ever since the Tunis Agenda was written in 2005 as part of WSIS Phase 2.

Paragraph 69 of the Tunis Agenda has also been at the heart of discussions on the role of governments in Internet governance:

69. We further recognize the need for enhanced cooperation in the future, to enable governments, on an equal footing, to carry out their roles and responsibilities, in international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet, but not in the day-to-day technical and operational matters, that do not impact on international public policy issues.

Analyzing public submissions to CWG-Internet online consultation

With only two days left for submissions to the ITU’s Council Working Group on international Internet-related public policy issues (CWG-Internet) online consultation, there have been 10 submissions received so far. The vast majority of words come from the three contributions by Richard Hill, ex-ITU staff member. In total, his almost 13,000 words make up a fraction over 59% of the 17,500 words received to date.

Below is a summary of contributions, including small biographies on contributors for context:

Issue 1: effectively countering and combatting spam

There have been two submissions:

1. Submission by Richard Hill, Hill & Associates, Switzerland

Richard Hill was Counsellor to the ITU for ten years and has now started the Association for Proper Internet Governance (with the rather unfortunate acronym, APIG). On 8 July this year, Hill chaired an ITU workshop on spam in South Africa. It is only on this first issue of spam that Richard Hill submits under the name “Hill and Associates”. For Hill’s remaining two—and significantly longer—submissions, he uses his “APIG” designation. It’s unclear why this is the case.

Hill’s first submission focuses on ITU documentation related to combatting spam:

He also refers to the Internet Society’s web page documenting ways to fight spam.

Discussion of human rights issues also creeps into the submission, reflecting how deeply embedded human rights rhetoric has become in all things Internet-related these days. Hill refutes that the ITR Article dealing with spam—the Article previously known as 5B, but renamed Article 7 in the post-WCIT editing process (let’s just call it “the Article formerly known as Prince“, shall we?)—could lead to restrictions on freedom of speech. He also refutes the other criticism aimed at the Article—that it strays into content management—by explaining that it specifically refers only to technical anti-spam measures.

2. Submission by Sami Salih, NTC, Sudan

Sami Salih has participated as a representative of the Sudan government in the ITU’s IPv6 Group and WCIT, and has also participated in AfriNIC meetings.

Salih’s submission is only one paragraph long. He refers to Article 5B (now known as “Article 7”) of the ITRs and suggests all stakeholders be asked to “adopt policies to minimize the impact of spam on the ICT services”.

Issue 2: (a) unused legacy IPv4 addresses, and (b) inter-region transfers of IPv4 addresses

The fact that this issue has been included in the consultation after having already been discussed in the ITU’s IPv6 Group is significant. So is the fact that there have been four submissions to the online consultation process in response to this issue. Clearly, there are still strong views about the best way to manage the rapidly depleting puddles of IPv4 as the Internet moves slowly into the IPv6 world.

1. Submission by Tim McGinnis, McTim Consulting, United States of America

Tim McGinnis is a member of the Internet technical community and participates in development of IP addressing policies in the Regional Internet Registry system.

McGinnis refers the CWG-Internet members to IANA policy document ICP-2, Criteria for Establishment of New Regional Internet Registries, and suggests that the IP address issues up for online consultation are out of scope for the ITU.

2. Submission by Jan Flodin, Internet Society Sweden Chapter, Sweden

Jan Flodin is policy advisor to .SE and Chair of the ISOC-SE board.

Flodin notes the online consultation is the CWG-Internet’s first towards openness but regrets that the limited context in which the consultation issues are presented makes it difficult to know if ISOC-SE’s response addresses the issues CWG-Internet members had in mind. Flodin notes that there has been “extensive work done on policy development and procedures by existing multi-stakeholder forums, including the Regional Internet Registries” and that to “interfere with this working allocation system would do more harm than good”. Instead, he suggests focusing on the transition to IPv6.

3. Submission by Sami Salih, NTC, Sudan

Salih’s intent appears to have been obscured a little by writing in English, a language that is not his first language. So I apologize in advance if I misunderstand his original intent. Salih expresses his belief that the Internet community needs to support developing nations to develop their ICT sectors. In relation to IP addressing, this can be achieved by ensuring the 40% of unused IPv4 addresses are returned to the free pool. Salih believes that it is not acceptable to hold back Internet resources from developing nations.

4. Submission by Richard Hill, APIG, Switzerland

Hill frames the slow transition to IPv6 as a “standardization failure” rather than a “market failure”. He doesn’t recommend any particular solution, but does leave Member States with three things to consider:

  • “[I]f it is felt that the relatively slow rate of transition to IPv6 simply reflects market and economic realities, then there is no need for government intervention apart from the current awareness and capacity building efforts”
  • “[I]f it is felt that the relatively slow transition to IPv6 perpetuates the historical geographical imbalances in IP address allocation, then some consideration could be given to taking steps to expropriate under-utilized IPv4 blocks and moving towards geographical allocation of recovered space, even perhaps to national allocation of the recovered space”
  • “[I]t has been suggested that the increasing concentration of IP address allocations may indicate some abuse of dominant market positions, so competition authorities may wish to consider this matter”

In his main text and reference notes, refers to a number of ITU documents and activities, including:

The submission also refers to blog posts by the “well respected technologist”, Geoff Huston, and a smattering of articles in academic journals.

Issue 3: developmental aspects of the Internet

There have been three submissions on this issue:

1. Submission by Poncelet Ileleji, The Gambia YMCA Computer Training Centre and Digital Studio, The Gambia

Poncelet Ileleji participates in the Not-for-Profit Operational Concerns (NPOC) constituency (part of the ICANN GNSO), is a member of the Diplo Internet Governance Community, and has participated in the West Africa IGF and global IGF. He participated as the sole representative of Gambia at WCIT in 2012.

Ileleji recommends in his submission that ITU can help Member States understand the importance of having national Internet Governance Forums. He also notes that such forums are not decision-making forums.

2. Submission by David Sarokin, XooxleAnswers Research, United States of America

I could find very little on David Sarokin’s background. His LinkedIn page says he is an Online Business Writer and Research Specialist. He doesn’t appear to have participated in ITU activities in the past. Nor does he seem to have been a participant in any of the various forums and organizations that address Internet governance issues.

Sarokin’s submission is a good example of what happens when the description of an issue in an online consultation is unclear. Sarokin’s submission—a proposal to create a new protocol that supports permanent, unchanging links to documents, video and images on the Internet—interprets Issue 3 as being related to Internet technical development rather than about efforts to bring Internet infrastructure, content and the benefits of the Internet to developing parts of the world. I don’t think this submission is what the Member States were expecting, and hopefully will encourage them to be more specific in their calls for online contributions in future.

3. Submission by Richard Hill, APIG, Switzerland

Ten thousand words. A list of eighty references. As an aside, it’s slightly odd that, in the main text, Hill doesn’t refer to authors of the documents he refers to. Instead, he uses general descriptions: “a well respected academic” (Milton Mueller) and “a well-known Internet technologist” (Geoff Huston) being the most frequent.

This is a tome. Due to the nature of its contents, it’s also the submission most likely to encourage members of the Internet governance community to decide to submit something of their own to the CWG-Internet online consultation.

The title of the piece, “Developmental Aspects of the Internet: The Last Gasp of Colonialism, or Imperialism by Other Means?”, is a good indication of its content. Because I’m rushing to get this post out in time to allow people to hopefully write last minute submissions to the CWG-Internet, my summary of Hill’s 10,000 word submission is necessarily brief and may not accurately reflect the weight Hill himself gives to the issues in his document.

The submission refers to criticism about ICANN (including the assertion that ICANN was never created to be a multistakeholder entity), distrust about the USA’s role in Internet governance in the wake of PRISM revelations and discussions on the financial implications of international Internet traffic arrangements for developing countries. Hill suggests that the current Internet governance model can be seen as a new form of “techno-imperialism”, with the US government and private companies using the multistakeholder model to extend the USA’s economic and political authority well beyond its territorial boundaries.

Hill proposes a few ways to move the current Internet governance model forward, which I have included in shortened form below:

  1. “Accept the discussion, rather than refuse it (WCIT and WTPF both provide good examples of refusal to discuss the situation, as do numerous other meetings)”
  2. “Accept discussion of the fundamental issues, rather than peripheral issues on which there isn’t much disagreement (for example, at WTPF there was much discussion of the role of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) but no discussion of the Internet financial flow issues”
  3. “Accept comparison with other infrastructures, in particular the mobile telephone infrastructure”
  4. “Seek an agreement that gives equal rights to all countries, that is, address the current asymmetric role of the US government”
  5. Go “back to the future”: “[develop] a multi-stakeholder multi-lateral memorandum of understanding similar to the one originally proposed in 1997

Hill ends his submission with “As suggested elsewhere, the ITU would appear to be a proper forum in which to conduct some of those discussions”.

4. Submission by Mawaki Chango, Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Cote d’Ivoire

Mawaki Chango has participated in the ICANN GNSO, the IGF and has worked as a consultant for UNESCO. The APC is an active civil society participant in Internet governance discussions.

Chango notes that there is still much to be done to bring down the cost of Internet access for African users. He is pleased to note, however, that the ITU, in one of its WTPF Opinions, recognized the work being done to create and support Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) and local content. Chango suggests that the ITU work in synergy with the African Union to support the region’s efforts to develop Africa’s Internet infrastructure. Chango also recommends that Member States move towards new and more dynamic regulatory approaches in their management and allocation of radio spectrum.

Chango also suggests that ITU members consider gender balance and universal access issues when deploying Internet infrastructure.

In relation to future public policy related discussion, Chango states that APC welcomes initiatives by the ITU, such as the CWG-Internet online consultation and the WPTF Informal Experts Group, and, for the future APC seeks a “clear and stable Internet-related public policy-making framework that ensures:

  • Public policy development can be initiated by state actors as well as non-state actors;
  • All stakeholders, regardless of the originator of the policy proposal, co-develop public policy, on equal footing, with all proposals and views to be weighed on their merit;
  • Balanced representation between and within stakeholder groups, across the five UN regions, and with best effort towards equal distribution between developing and developed countries.
  • Input and engagement of stakeholders via a well-facilitated remote participation platform”

General impressions of submissions made to date

1. A bit too much ITU navel gazing

Five of the submissions were made by two people with a substantial level of participation in the ITU environment. These five submissions also refer to a lot of ITU documents, many of which are unavailable to non-ITU members.

2. Lack of information about the breadth of work already underway to address the three issues

I suspect that when supporters of the CWG-Internet open consultation were drafting the text of this first open consultation, they were hoping for input about non-ITU activities, discussions, information and processes on the issues up for consultation. Right now, what the members of the CWG-Internet have from the online consultation is really no different to the sorts of Member State contributions they would be reading had there never been an open consultation.

I’ll be honest here. When I talk about “the breadth of work already underway to address the three issues”, I’m not saying that processes outside ITU have solved, or will solve, all the public policy issues associated with IPv4 transfers, spam, or developmental challenges. But unless CWG-Internet members have access to information about positive activities to address these issues, we certainly can’t blame various Member States for continuing to fear that gaps in Internet policy will get wider and more problematic and that intergovernmental organizations alone are interested in solving the issues.

Right now, the contributions to the CWG-Internet online consultation show little of the wonderful diversity of actions that have been taken, are underway, or are under development to address the three issues of concern to the CWG.

What next?

The deadline for submissions is 1 August 2013. I suspect more submissions will slip in just before the deadline (probably just before 5 pm Geneva time). I’ve heard that at least a couple of other submissions are in the works as I write this.

Now that there are ten submissions available for all to read, I’d like to think that other organizations might now have a better idea of what sorts of submissions they can make.

I’d also like to think that the contents of the current ten submissions could prompt other organizations to write brief submissions to the CWG-Internet, either to support the sentiments in one or more of the submissions, or to express contrasting views on the issues. (I’ve previously blogged on the CWG-Internet consultation and included a proposed template here.)

Finally, I really hope that remaining contributions focus less on references to ITU documents and more on external sources of information that the CWG-Internet members probably don’t know exist and would be interested to learn more about.

Let’s show the CWG-Internet there’s public interest in their work

Only a few weeks ago, the ITU Council 2013 had a long debate over whether it was appropriate to open the Council Working Group on international Internet-related public policy issues (CWG-Internet) to non-government stakeholders. The conclusion of that debate was they would have to wait until ITU Plenipotentiary 2014 in Busan, 20 October – 7 November 2014, to discuss any potential changes to the Guadalajara version of Resolution 102, which started the CWG.

In the meantime, however, the first ever open online consultation conducted by the CWG-Internet is about to close on 1 August 2013.

Any stakeholder can submit responses to the three following topics that the CWG is seeking further information on:

  • Issue 1: Consultation on effectively countering and combatting spam.
    The Council Working Group on International Internet-Related Public Policy Issues invites all stakeholders to provide input on international public policy issues related to effectively countering and combatting spam.
  • Issue 2: Consultation on international public policy issues concerning IPv4 addresses.
    The Council Working Group on International Internet-Related Public Policy Issues invites all stakeholders to provide input on international public policy issues related to (a) unused legacy IPv4 addresses, and (b) inter-region transfers of IPv4 addresses.
  • Issue 3: Consultation on developmental aspects of the Internet.
    The Council Working Group on International Internet-Related Public Policy Issues invites all stakeholders to provide input on international public policy issues related to developmental aspects of the Internet.

Given the interest so many non-government stakeholders had in the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) and the Fifth World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum (WTPF-13), you’d probably expect the CWG-Internet consultation to be inundated with responses, yes? Well, actually, in reality, the answer is “no”.

Since the open consultation opened in February this year, it has received exactly four responses. And not a single one of those four responses are from any of the Internet-related organizations that have pushed so hard to be able to participate in ITU’s Internet-related activities. It’s a little perplexing.

Why the lack of response to CWG-Internet’s Online Consultation?

Having asked a number of people why their organizations aren’t responding to the online consultation, I’ve heard two main responses:

  1. The information about the online consultation topics is very vague.
    Probably the worst offender here is Issue 3, which asks for input on international public policy issues related to “developmental aspects of the Internet.” With a topic is so broad, people don’t have a clue how to begin framing a response to it.
  2. There are so many Internet governance related processes underway, that organizations are losing the capacity to respond to all of the processes.
    In the first half of this year, we’ve had UNESCO’s WSIS+10 review, ITU’s WTPF (plus its final Informal Experts Group meeting in February), the WSIS Forum, the formation of the CSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation (WGEC), two IGF preparatory meetings, an ICANN meeting, Regional Internet Registry meetings, and much, much more. The ever-expanding Internet governance calendar is growing at such a rate that it’s not just developing country stakeholders that have trouble following it all. Even the best-resourced stakeholders are having difficulties fitting in all these consultations with their actual day-to-day work.

Why it’s important that stakeholders do respond

Despite the very understandable reasons stakeholders haven’t responded to the CWG-Internet consultation, it’s vital that we do have a decent response rate to the consultation.

If we don’t respond, then it gives the governments who have a “let’s keep the CWG-Internet closed” stance a fantastic argument for keeping the status quo. After all, if the community shows no interest in interacting with the CWG-Internet even when the CWG-Internet has asked for submissions, what could possibly be achieved by opening up the CWG’s meetings?

Instead, we need to help bolster the case for opening the CWG-Internet by showing that non-government stakeholders do have something very important to contribute to the governments’ work on international public policy issues related to the Internet. By providing submissions to the online consultation, we can support the ongoing efforts of governments who have been trying to open the CWG-Internet.

A template to help stakeholders respond to the online consultation

To make it easy for stakeholders to respond to the online consultation in the short time that remains, below is a proposed structure for responses to CWG-Internet:

  1. Thank the CWG-Internet for seeking input from the larger community.
    Your organization understands that the members of the CWG-Internet are discussing a very wide range of international public policy issues related to the Internet. As it’s unreasonable to expect that government representatives in the CWG-Internet are experts in all areas under discussion, your organization welcomes the CWG-Internet’s recognition that it needs the input of subject matter experts in specific Internet-related fields.
  2. Explain what your organization is and why it can help the CWG-Internet with its work.
    Don’t overdo the introduction to your organization, but do explain why you have expertise or interest in one or all of the three issues CWG-Internet is seeking input on. Do give links to, or append, any documents you have produced on the issues CWG-Internet is interested in.
  3. Note that, unfortunately, it’s not possible to give specific advice to the CWG-Internet given the overly broad parameters of the consultation, but welcome the opportunity to respond to more specific questions from the CWG-Internet.
    Including this will help pro-“open the CWG” governments argue for the need to make CWG-Internet’s documents available to non-government members, even if we can’t get the CWG-Internet meetings opened. By offering to answer any specific questions the CWG-Internet has on the issues they have sent to open consultation, we can hopefully get a more meaningful and informed dialogue happening between governments in the CWG-Internet and the wider ecosystem of Internet governance stakeholders.
  4. Provide links to forums that are already discussing the issues CWG-Internet is interested in, and encourage them to engage with those forums.
    In the interests of “enhanced cooperation”, take the time to direct governments to organizations and forums that are already discussing the issues that are the subject of the online consultation. If there’s a page associated with the forum that explains how to participate, include a link to that, too.
  5. Thank the CWG-Internet again, and tell them you look forward to engaging with them in future to assist in their deliberations.
    If you’re feeling really bold, you may want to encourage the CWG-Internet to consider more direct interaction with your organization and other non-government stakeholders in future, via more open CWG-Internet modalities.

CWG-Internet discussions at ITU Council 2013

ITU Council 2013

Photo credit: ITU pictures via Flickr

After the divisive discussions about the ITU’s role in Internet issues at WCIT in December 2012, the harmony that appeared to reign at WTPF-13 in May this year signaled hope for better relations between governments and other stakeholders in future Internet governance discussions. The ITU Council 2013, however, held 11-21 June 2013, showed that there are still many speed bumps in the road ahead.

The CWG-Internet decision at ITU Council 2013

The issue was discussed on four separate occasions during the two-week council meeting: 13 June, 14 June, 19 June, and 20 June. There were five formal proposals related to the Council Working Group on international Internet-related public policy issues (CWG-Internet) and the Chair of Council 2013 proposed two ways forward.

Ultimately, the decision on the CWG-Internet by the ITU Council 2013 was not to make a decision.

Instead, Member States informally accepted that the Secretary-General could, in his work to support ITU activities, energize the public consultations that the ITU Council 2012 agreed to adopt in Resolution 1344.

How the Secretariat-General will achieve this is not clear. However, it does seem very probable that the informal mechanism proposed by the Chair of Council 2013—that the Secretariat-General convene a meeting of an Informal Experts Group on the day prior to CWG-Internet meetings—will not be implemented. This is because Resolution 1344 requires a full month’s gap between when the public consultation period ends and when the CWG-Internet meets.

Please note that there was no resolution or decision related to this. Instead, there was simply informal acknowledgement that the Secretary-General will do something to encourage non-government stakeholder involvement in the existing open consultation process.

When is the next opportunity to open the CWG-Internet?

We now have to wait until the next ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-14), 20 October-7 November 2014, for Member States to consider whether or not to open the Council Working Group on international Internet-related public policy issues (CWG-Internet) to non-government stakeholders.

What can non-government stakeholders do in the meantime?

  • Ask your government to allow you to be part of its delegation to CWG-Internet meetings. This is in keeping with the Secretary-General’s statement on a multiple occasions that multistakeholderism can occur in ITU through multistakeholder composition of Member State delegations.
  • Ask your government to share the CWG-Internet documents with you. If you’re particularly public-spirited, be one of the lovely souls who sends them to WCITleaks so others can read them, too.
  • Respond to the CWG-Internet online consultations. As of the time of writing this blog, only four responses have been received to the public consultation first announced in January. That’s less than one submission per month. Closing date for submissions is 1 August 2013. Respond, people!

More detail on what happened at ITU Council 2013

I have a habit of writing too much for a single blog post, so below are links to smaller sections, containing summaries and analysis on the CWG-Internet discussions that happened at ITU Council 2013: