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The two-week global conference on telecoms organised by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has ended without agreement, with organisers claiming the meeting had been a triumph, despite countries including the UK, US, Australia and Canada refusing to ratify its new treaty.
The WCIT-12 meeting had been convened to renegotiate the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), which govern the operation of communications networks across the globe.
“As you look back today on your very intensive, very long days of work, you can hold your heads up high – proud that you have triumphed over adversity and delivered the goods,” Hamadoun Touré, secretary general of the ITU, told delegates in his closing remarks.
Mohamed Nasser Al Ghanim, chairman of the ITU, noted, “While we did not manage to get universal consensus, I believe we nonetheless achieved a huge milestone in getting such broad agreement, and I am confident that these new ITRs will pave the way to a better, more connected world and a more equitable environment for all."
But such views stand in sharp contrast to arguments that blazed at the heart of the meeting. Representatives from the US and European governments were implacably opposed to the suggestion that individual countries should be able to dictate how the internet was managed within their countries.
“We believe the new ITRs have the potential to increase the control governments have over the internet,” said a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
“An open internet is vital for prosperity, economic development and Freedom of Expression and our decision not to sign this international treaty reflects this strongly held belief.
"In the end the divergence of views between those who wanted to include elements of internet and wider policy and those who wanted to maintain the ITR's proper focus on international telecommunications services was just too great and the outcome was not one we could support.”