US: Keep mandates on cybersecurity out of global telecom treaty

The United States will argue that cybersecurity mandates should be excluded from an international telecommunications treaty in a new set of proposals it plans to send to a United Nations agency on Wednesday. 

Some countries are pushing to include cybersecurity proposals in the treaty that could lead to online censorship or put one regulatory body in charge of cybersecurity mandates, U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer said on a conference call with reporters. 

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He said "there is no one-size-fits-all text" that will provide the right solutions on cybersecurity, and for this reason, the upcoming treaty conference in Dubai this December is not the "proper venue" for discussing the national security issue. 

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Kramer argued that including such regulations would be a "dead end" because countries need to be agile enough to respond to cyberattacks on critical infrastructure. He acknowledged that the threat of cyberattacks is a problem, noting that 67,000 malware attacks occur each day — double the number from 2009.

Instead, the U.S. is advocating for a variety of organizations to guide countries on how to boost the protection of their critical computer networks and systems, foster international cybersecurity cooperation and cyber training. 

"The best solutions for these [policies] are multi-stakeholder organizations," Kramer told reporters.

The U.S. submitted a baseline set of proposals for the telecom treaty in August. The latest tranche of proposals it's sending to the U.N.'s International Telecommunications Union are more concrete positions that are in response to proposals discussed by other countries and trade groups.

The treaty will be reviewed for the first time since 1988 at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai this December.

Kramer recently met with delegations in Tokyo and Beijing ahead of the conference and is headed to Baku, Azerbaijan next.

The latest set of proposals voices support for a "multistakeholder, liberalized" model for managing Web and mobile traffic from country to country, as well as support for investment in broadband access so more people in developing countries can get connected to the Internet, he said.

Kramer said the U.S. would also oppose proposals that would force content providers like Google, Facebook, Netflix and others to pay a fee to telecom operators for sending their Web content to people around the world. That fee was an idea was included in a proposal by a trade group of European telecom companies, the European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association (ETNO).

"It challenges all that we believe in net neutrality and [discriminates] against certain types of content," Kramer said. He added that "the adoption of those ETNO types of proposals is languishing…but we are seeing continued interest in parts of Africa and the Middle East" for them.

-- This post was updated at 1:39 p.m.