Business News of Saturday, 22 September 2012
Current proposals from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) member states on Internet development could slow economic progress; raise costs on users who can least afford them and limit internet access in developing countries.
Analyzing the proposals which were from member states in Africa and the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association (ETNO), Dr. Rohan Samarajiva, former Sri Lankan Telecommunication regulator, said they could artificially raise the cost of network interconnection, content delivery and quality of service, and that these costs would ultimately be passed along to those least able to afford them or would result in exclusion from the Internet economy.
These were contained in a press statement issued by Dr Samarajiva on Friday and copied to the Ghana News Agency together with the full report of his analysis of the proposals.
In his critique titled: “A Giant Step Backward or the Way Forward? An Analysis of Some Proposals before the WCIT,” he said, when approved they would open a door for the creation of a top-down, inflexible international regulatory regime for the Internet, much in conflict with the current framework that has enabled growth in access, innovation, entrepreneurship and economic activity.
The proposals are to be discussed and voted on at the upcoming World Congress on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) in Dubai this December.
The ETNO proposal, Dr Samarajiva said, would give increased regulatory oversight to the ITU, a step that was unnecessary and counterproductive to Internet growth worldwide.
For example, he said, the contribution suggests the “sending party network pays rule,” which would force content providers to pay local telecom operators for the delivery of user-requested data, be implemented by the ITU body as opposed to commercial agreements.
This he said, suggested a government-sanctioned leveraging tool that operators could use to extract high sums from content providers with no room for negotiation, which could result in the “balkanization” of the Internet, where the majority of multimedia applications are available only to wealthy countries.
The proposals also examined the Africa Region, which aimed to expand ITR definitions beyond traditional telephone regulations to encompass the larger ecosystem of the digital economy.
Again the proposals report was to reverse the liberalized policies currently in place that have delivered affordable and increased connectivity to some of the world’s most remote peoples and places.
The statement said internet growth in Ghana, for example, follows the trajectory of many developing countries in Africa and Southeast Asia, noting that 2010 to 2011, the ITU reported that Internet penetration in Ghana nearly doubled, increasing from 5.2 percent to 10 percent.
“Policies that reformed government-owned operators, promoted market entry and competition and established regulatory mechanisms have resulted in a huge increase in telecom access in the developing world, and a regulatory overhaul that reverses this trend is backward-looking,” it added.
The proposal would also look at the expansion of ITR jurisdiction from land-line telephony to encompass the entire Internet ecosystem, the Africa Region proposal supports price regulations, quality of service standards, inter carrier compensation and international financial support for universal service.
This dramatic expansion of authority according to the statement would open the door to the regulation of content and speech on the Internet by seeking a greater role for the ITU in setting standards, imposing routing regulations over international traffic, resolving disputes between international operators, imposing obligations on governments in the areas of privacy, security and fraud.