Ambassador Terry Kramer
U.S. Head of Delegation, World Conference on International Telecommunications
Monday, October 8, 2012
Hello to everyone and welcome. My name is Terry Kramer, and I am the Head of Delegation for the United States at the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications – the “WCIT” as we call it. As you may know, the WCIT conference in Dubai is the first time that the ITU will be updating the international telecommunications regulations (itr’s) in 24 years. This has the potential to greatly impact the telecommunications industry and consequently the Internet which I will discuss in more detail later.
I’d like to thank the U.S. mission for putting this together, and I’d especially like to thank you for being here. It is, I think, an excellent opportunity for me to share with you the aspirations of the US for a productive and positive conference in Dubai.
As you know, the WCIT will review the International Telecommunications Regulations, which have not been updated since 1988. Given the immense changes that have occurred in the telecommunications sector since then, the WCIT could have a real impact on how the world communicates, far into the future.
So, I would like to speak to you regarding what the US believes is the environment for success for he telecomm and internet sectors supported by a positive outcome of the WCIT. I will explain how the US sees the opportunity to revise the ITRs and what the opportunities are – not just for the US but for the entire world. Then, I will answer any questions you may have about the US positions and its approach in preparing for the conference.
First, I should properly introduce myself. I am no stranger to Europe, having lived in the UK and the Netherlands for several years in my career with Vodafone, where I held several positions including Group Strategy and HR Director and Chief of Staff.
When I look back at the years when I began working in the mobile communications industry, it was a pager business, which then transformed into a “cell phone” business. That cellphone business then went from a high-end market, initially targeting wealthy individuals, to a mass-market, “must have” service. And finally, it went from a developed-country business into a truly global one.
Meanwhile, the Internet ecosystem has evolved, thrived and changed the very nature of human interactions and connectedness. The Internet is now flourishing as a consumer-driven, de-centralized phenomenon, powered by innovation and the strength of multi-stakeholder governance and standard-setting.
This is at the heart of our vision of the international telecommunications sector. We see open platforms and multi-stakeholder organizations that drive effectiveness, agility and innovation. This is, in fact, the model that has been so successful in the rapid transformation of international telecommunications from the monopoly, fixed-line environment of 25 years ago to the dynamic, consumer-driven mobile telecommunications sector we see today.
So the environment for success that we see as an outcome of the WCIT is one that brings the clear benefits of the Internet and international connectivity to societies and consumers – not just to operators and governments – around the world. And we firmly believe that the Internet is not a US-driven phenomenon – not even a developed-country one – it is a genuinely global revolution.
So for us, the goal of the WCIT is really to work with the rest of the world to find a way to breathe more oxygen into this worldwide fire that is the Internet.
So how do we do that? Well, first, we have to avoid suffocating it through well-meaning but overly prescriptive proposals that would control content or seek to mandate routing and payment practices – sending the Internet back into a circuit-switched era that is passing into history.
But that isn’t enough. We have to proactively look for ways to increase access and broadband infrastructure growth in countries that fear they are being left behind in the Internet age. We understand that fear, but we also see the great possibility of “virtual cycles” in which national policies and consumer demand combine to stimulate network investment, increase access, generate domestic content and produce economies of scale.
We see the Internet organically growing and moving away from its developed market origins and flourishing in the developing world. This is already happening, but we agree with those who are looking for ways to accelerate it.
So, much of what I am doing, as I travel to various regions of the world, is to listen to what my colleagues in these countries have to say about their successes and challenges in this regard. It is absolutely vital for us to listen to each other, to identify mutual goals and common ground.
This is also the message I am bringing in meetings here, including with Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure. I know that the ITU is working diligently and effectively to create the conditions for success at the WCIT, and my message is that the U.S. delegation is here to work and negotiate diligently with the ITU and nations to achieve that success.
Last month I was in Dubai, where we met with many of our Arab colleagues, including Mr. Mohamed Al-Ghanim, who will be the chairman of the Conference. I also spoke to a session of the Arab regulators and was a guest speaker at SANEMA, the association of Arab operators. These were very instructive and constructive meetings and deepened the level of dialogue on numerous issues.
Also last month, I traveled to Accra, Ghana, where the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) was holding its WCIT prep meetings. I was able to have several bilateral meetings with my counterparts in many of the African countries, and the result was a very beneficial exchange of views on our developing positions.
Perhaps the most important recent event for our own region was the PCC.1 meeting of CITEL, held about a month ago. As a result of this meeting, CITEL has now reached agreement on important Inter-American Proposals (IAPs) for WCIT. Among these are several that I would like to touch on briefly:
Cybersecurity – CITEL reached two IAPs on this issue. The first IAP establishes the general position that cybersecurity should be excluded from the ITRs. The second is more explicit in saying that the ITRs should not address security issues that relate to cyber crime, national security or national defense.
The United States does recognize that many countries, including our own are experiencing growing incidents of hacking and cyber-crimes. Indeed, there are, reportedly some 67,000 malware attacks every day around the world – which represents a doubling of attacks since 2009. But the ITRs are not an appropriate or useful venue to address cybersecurity. Existing multi-stakeholder processes are better adapted to address cybersecurity and related issues. Groups such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and 3GPP, for example, are actively developing standards for network and device security – drawing on rapid innovations in identifying and addressing cyber attacks.
On global mobile roaming, CITEL adopted an IAP urging transparency with regard to rates and consumer offerings. We believe that transparency will allow market forces to act, leading to beneficial and appropriate results in each market. But the US does not support adding provisions to the ITRs that would address the actual level of roaming rates. We believe that’s a step too far and too prescriptive, which could generate unintended consequences.
On the scope of the ITRs, there is also now a solid regional position on maintaining the current definitions of what kinds of activities and entities would be subject to the ITRs. We have an IAP calling for the definition of telecommunications to remain as it is, avoiding any confusion with the term “ICTs” (“information and communications technologies”) which we believe would stretch the scope of the ITRs into unintended territory that has little or nothing to do with international telecommunications traffic.
We have another IAP that calls for the ITRs to continue applying only to recognized operating agencies – a term that denotes authorized carriers that provide services to the public. We believe this will provide a solid and consistent baseline for the ITRs going forward, rather than opening the door to confusing and vague definitions that are not consistent with the ITU’s constitution.
Indeed, one of the core principles of the U.S. approach is that the ITRs should remain high-level norms, and that we should not have to revisit them every two or three years to make micromanaging adjustments. Moreover, we believe that the way to revise them now is to start with the existing text as a baseline, rather than trying to reinvent the ITRs as a wholly reconstructed document.
This approach is embodied in the first tranche of US proposals that was submitted to the ITU on Aug. 3.
. We proposed — Only minimal changes to the preamble of the ITRs;
. Alignment of the definitions in the ITRs with those in the ITU Constitution and Convention, including no change to the definitions of telecommunications and international telecommunications service;
. Maintaining the voluntary nature of compliance with ITU-T Recommendations;
. Continuing to apply the ITRs only to recognized operating agencies or RoAs; and
. And we proposed–Revisions of Article 6 to affirm the role played by market competition and commercially negotiated agreements for exchanging international telecommunication traffic.
We will continue to look at the contributions of other administrations and regions, and we will likely prepare additional proposals for WCIT in the coming weeks.
Before I close, I do want to address some of the issues we continue to be concerned about.
First, I would like to address the proposal by ETNO that the sending party networks including content providers, many of whom are non profit organizations and other organizations which provide free content, should pay to send content to end users on the Internet. ETNO has been actively pressing its public relations case in recent weeks. We remain unconvinced by ETNO’s arguments, however, and we continue to believe that their proposal for transfer pricing regimes are (a) impractical to implement, (b) an inducement for arbitrage and evasion, and (c) very likely detrimental to internet users around the world including those in developing nations.
In my conversations with regulators from some of those developing countries, it is clear that they are sensitive to the potential loss of access to information that their constituents risk under the ETNO proposal. Making content generation more costly and uneconomical will likely lead many small businesses and non-profits to restrict or charge for downloads – even leading to “blackouts” in less-developed countries due to high termination charges.
Our message is to not kill the content golden goose – developing countries need access to more information, not less, and they need to be empowered to create more of their own content. When consumers can freely generate and access relevant, useful content, it will drive that virtuous circle of demand, infrastructure investment, greater international capacity and economic growth around the world.
Separately, we will be working hard to bring our message to the world that commercially driven traffic-routing arrangements are the most productive and efficient way to manage traffic flows. The United States believes that least-cost routing is a standard business practice that has resulted in much lower costs for consumers to make international calls. This could be jeopardized by proposals to monitor and track traffic routing and origination. These traffic management mandates could also open the door to Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), allowing governments and operators to engage in content monitoring and potentially gain access to customer information across borders.
Just being realistic, according to our Federal Communications Commission, the Internet comprises more than 40,000 networks, exchanging traffic on more than 425,000 distinct global routes, and connecting more than 600 million websites – all of them subject to commercial agreements among network operators. It would be impractical for any government to track and monitor routing and management practices throughout such a complex network of networks.
So, in summary, the itr’s first developed in 1988 have been amazingly effective. We have seen the growth of a vibrant mobile communications industry and a booming Internet sector marked by rapidly growing, affordable broadband access providing invaluable connectedness and commercial opportunities for citizens, consumers and society. As we approach the WCIT in Dubai, we have the opportunity to create an environment for continued success, marked by unique opportunities around the world, unfettered by prescriptive policies serving only a few. A successful broadband and Internet space connecting people, providing access to information and creating economic opportunities for individuals and societies can be our lasting legacy. Let’s make this opportunity a reality.