Ambassador: US working ‘day and night’ to keep Internet rules out of UN treaty

Ambassador Terry Kramer on Thursday said the United States will be working “day and night” to ensure new Internet regulations are kept out of a United Nations treaty.

“Fundamentally the conference, to us, should not be dealing with the Internet sector,” Kramer told reporters on a conference call from Dubai, where the treaty is being negotiated at a conference hosted by the United Nations International Telecommunications Union. He is leading the U.S. delegation at the conference. 

Kramer shot down a report that the U.S. and Canada failed to win backing from other countries for a proposal to keep the Internet out of the treaty. The two countries are pushing to keep the focus of the negotiations on telecommunications networks, so that the updated rules would only apply to major operators like AT&T and Verizon.

{mosads}Discussions about the scope of the treaty are expected to pick up on Friday, so the pressure is on the U.S. to drum up support for their plan. Kramer said it’s gaining traction with countries in Europe, Latin America and the Asia Pacific region.

He said the U.S. opposed a Russian proposal that calls for national governments to assume greater authority over key Internet functions, such as assigning domain names. The U.S. believes the Internet should continue to be governed by various public and private organizations, and not overseen by a single entity.

“We’ve looked at the proposal, but we’re not keen to get into a discussion about [it] because we believe it’s out of scope for the conference,” Kramer said.

Member countries of the ITU are updating an international telecommunications treaty for the first time since 1988. The treaty conference has drawn scrutiny because only governments are allowed to participate in the negotiations. Google has argued that some of governments are using the treaty conference to clamp down on online speech they disagree with and to gain more authority over the Web.

The ITU confirmed that its website was inaccessible for parts of Wednesday. A Twitter account that appears to be associated with the hacker group Anonymous claimed responsibility for the outage on the ITU site. 

“The incident blocked civil society, media and other interested parties from following the proceedings, and prevented access to the wealth of online information,” the ITU said in a statement. “Some delegates were frustrated at being unable to access some of the online working documents that were being considered by the meeting.”

ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré condemned the threats made by hacker groups against the conference.

“It is ironic that the very people who claim to be fighting for a free Internet are preventing those around the world trying to follow the event online from getting access,” Touré said in a statement. “Do they believe in one rule for them, and one for everyone else?”

In its release, the ITU noted that the disruption “reinforces the importance of cybersecurity,” a topic some countries are pushing to include in the treaty. The U.S. is opposed to including cybersecurity rules in the international treaty, arguing that they would prevent countries from being nimble enough to deal with cyberattacks occurring in real-time.

Kramer said the website outage did not bolster the ITU’s case for including cybersecurity measures in the treaty. He said the U.S. thought it was “a helpful reminder” about “the necessary skills and speeds” that are needed to deal with cyber issues.

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