Compromise emerges in global talks on Internet oversight

Tue Dec 11, 2012 7:11pm EST
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By Matt Smith and Joseph Menn

DUBAI Dec 11 (Reuters) - Hopes rose on Tuesday for a compromise agreement that would keep intrusive government regulation of the Internet from being enshrined in a global treaty.

As a 12-day conference of the International Telecommunication Union drew near its Friday closing, the chairman of the gathering in Dubai circulated a draft that sidelined proposals from Russia, China and other countries that have been seeking the right to know where each piece of Internet traffic comes from.

"The United States believes it is the basis for any further progress toward reaching an agreement at this conference," said U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer, who had led Western opposition to the earlier proposals.

The new draft was greeted positively by a broad swath of delegates to the conference and came as a surprise to many who had been frustrated by the deadlock gripping the event over the weekend.

Hamaoun Touré, ITU secretary-general, told Reuters he had hosted discussions between the opposing parties and weary delegates seemed eager to resolve their differences as talks drag into the early hours each night.

A majority of the more than 150 countries represented at the conference had been willing to officially extend the mission of the United Nations agency to the Internet, while the Americans, most Europeans and some other advanced economies wanted to limit the ITU to oversight of international phone calls and other means of communication.

The issue is coming to a head now because the ITU is revamping its treaty for the first time since 1988, before the World Wide Web took shape and became an economic, cultural and political force usually free from international oversight.

The compromise-in-progress would move most Internet elements from the treaty itself to a separate, U.N.-style "resolution" that is not binding on the countries, delegates said.   Continued...