Net regulation talks set to begin in Dubai

Regulators from 193 countries will meet to discuss changes to communications treaty

Regulators from 193 countries will meet in Dubai this week to discuss changes to a communications treaty that governs the global internet.

The World Conference on International Communications (WCIT), a two-week long conference that began on Sunday, has been convened by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a UN agency in charge of telecommunications, and marks the first time there has been a major overhaul of the sector since 1988.

More than 900 amendments have been put forward for discussion with key topics set to include blocking spam messages, cutting mobile roaming feeds and prioritising emergency calls.

But opponents of the meeting have criticised the decision to update the regulations, claiming they could threaten a free and open internet.

Google launched its anti-regulation campaign, Take Action, several weeks ago.

Take Action is the same banner the internet giant used to successfully protest against the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) earlier in the year.

Google claimed the “closed door” meeting could allow governments to “censor legitimate speech or even allow them to cut off internet access”.

“Other proposals would require services like YouTube, Facebook, and Skype to pay new tolls in order to reach people across borders. This could limit access to information — particularly in emerging markets,” it added in a statement on its Take Action homepage.

“Only governments have a voice at the ITU. This includes governments that do not support a free and open Internet. Engineers, companies, and people that build and use the web have no vote.

“The ITU is also secretive. The treaty conference and proposals are confidential,” it added.

The ITU has defended the meeting, claiming there is a need to update regulations in order to bring them in line with today’s “dramatically different” technology.

“The brutal truth is that the internet remains largely [the] rich world's privilege,” said Dr Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the UN's International Telecommunications Union.

“ITU wants to change that.”

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