Last week, there was much rejoicing after the U.S. and other nations firmly rejected a UN treaty that sought to regulate the Internet on an international level. There’s been a lot of talk about the conference since then, but the White House hasn’t offered a statement on the conclusion of the conference until now.
Echoing a previous statement made near the end of the ITU conference, the White House reiterated its stance that it opposes any efforts to regulate the Internet. The administration says that it opposed the UN treaty based on the principle that “the Internet’s social and economic benefits come from the free flow of information and ideas and that the technical innovation enabling this information flow comes from the full engagement of civil society, industry, and governments in the process.”
So, what did the US want out of this conference? The administration says that delegates should have focused on ways to install broadband in more parts of the world instead of trying to regulate it.
The United States went to the WCIT prepared to negotiate revisions to a telecommunications treaty, last revised in 1988. These changes would have reflected the realities of the modern world while staying true to the charter of the Conference. Unfortunately, a small number of vocal states at the WCIT which do not endorse the principles of economic opportunity and free expression sought, in proposal after proposal, to instead focus on the Internet. Because of those efforts, the Conference missed a significant opportunity to encourage economic growth through greater broadband deployment.
In the end, the United States determined that it could not sign the proposed treaty and we were far from alone in our stance. Fifty-four nations in the developed and developing world—including India, Kenya, the Philippines, Colombia, and almost all of Europe—have also chosen not to sign the treaty. Moreover, U.S. industry, Congress, and civil society were united in recognizing the value of a principled decision to protect the existing multistakeholder governance model of the Internet and not sign a treaty that could have set a dangerous precedent for greater state control of information on the Internet.
We recognize, however, that many states wanted something from this Conference that it did not provide, but could have: increased investment in broadband to connect more people around the world to the digital future. And to those nations, we reaffirm that our Administration is committed to connecting more across the globe to modern technology — and will do so both directly, and in forums positioned to address real needs in a constructive way.
The treaty’s rejection has stalled any efforts on an International scale to further broadband expansion, but the U.S. says its committed to working with other nations, alongside industry and civil society, to help grow broadband access around the world.