On Maintaining an Open and Free Internet

The Internet Society comments on pending international proposals that could affect the Internet

Preparations are underway to review the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), a 1988 treaty that currently governs international telecommunications between counties. The United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) will hold the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in December 2012 and enable the 193 Member States from across the globe to review the ITRs and modify the treaty between Member States. This amended version of the ITRs could redefine as well as impact the existing principles of an open and free Internet.

The facts at a glance:

Some examples of the proposed changes and the impacts these might have:

Quotes from Sally Shipman Wentworth, Public Policy, Internet Society
(for photo please see Related Media on the right)

“The Internet is different from the traditional telecommunication systems governed by the ITRs. This difference must be understood and respected if the Internet’s benefits are ever to reach all of the world’s people.”

“Any expanded regulation at the infrastructure level is likely to have an impact on growth and innovation and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. In the rare case where a regulatory framework is needed, Member States should commit to ensuring that these are justified, and consist of high-level principles. Regulation should not interfere in commercial decisions, be based on specific technologies or business-models, or seek to substitute government action for the private sector.”

“The ITRs should reflect what has been learned about what works best for telecommunication regulation in the 24 years since the WATTC. In particular, its text should seek Member States’ commitment that their regulatory regimes be non-discriminatory, technology neutral, and encourage competition.”

“To continue to benefit from what we know about the Internet, the ITRs should strive to be permissive, not restrictive. The text could be improved by committing to develop “soft” regulatory practices such as “codes of practice” and “guidelines” wherever possible, and always in an open and transparent manner, consistent with current practices and with the outcomes of the WSIS.”

About the Internet Society


The Internet Society is the world’s trusted independent source of leadership for Internet policy, technology standards and future development. Based on its principled vision and substantial technological foundation, the Internet Society works with its members and Chapters around the world to promote the continued evolution and growth of the open Internet through dialog among companies, governments, and other organizations around the world. For more information, see: http://www.internetsociety.org

Media contact: Wende Cover, cover@isoc.org