Internet Governance

Watch Out for WTSA: it’s going to be a WCIT proving ground

At its July meeting, the ITU Council referred several items to the ITU-T World Telecommunications Standardization Assembly (WTSA), they are: to define OTT as it relates to the Internet, address misuse of domain names, misuse of identifiers, and issues with ICANN and TLDs that concern Member States. These are all items that have also surfaced in WCIT ITR proposals and discussions over the past few months, including recent proposals to insert ICT and “processing” in the definition of telecommunications that will be used within the ITRs.

WTSA meets in Dubai the two weeks prior to the start of WCIT. At WTSA, Member States will adopt the work program, structure and processes for ITU-T “standardization” activies and the scope of its Study Groups. Also, ITU Member States will revise and draft new Resolutions, which the ITU-T will use to frame its work for the next four years. And WTSA is where the WCIT debate will start in earnest on whether ITU Recommendations should become mandatory, the role of the ITU in developing Internet standards and the scope of numbering and its associated “misuse” (is it just telephone numbers or does it include IP addresses and ccTLDs). The discussion will also include the definition of what OTT or “Over the Top” means in relation to Internet services and networks. Finally, the WTSA will have to figure out what ICT encompasses (hopefully not the Internet). All of these WTSA issues have also been discussed in relation to modifications for the ITRs.

All of this just confirms my opinion that WTSA is a testing ground for WCIT proposals for the ITR treaty. The ITRs are a treaty between Member States, which should, in my opinion, be a set of high-level technology neutral principals on how global telecommunications interacts across boarders. Time will tell if the outcome of WTSA affects WCIT; however, it will certainly have an effect on the role that the ITU will play in the future and whether its role should be broadened. In 2014 at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, Member States will, in another treaty, define the role and scope of the ITU. In other words, it is the key treaty event at which ITU Member States decide on the scope and the role the ITU will play in the development of communication technologies worldwide for the next four years. It is at this level that the ITU will obtain agreements for what its actions will be focused on for the next four years. I suspect that 2014 is going to be all about the ITU’s role in the Internet space, but first we need to get though WTSA and WCIT unscathed.



World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA)

- Karen Mulberry