1. What is ITU?
  2. What does ITU do?
  3. Why Conference in Dubai?
  4. How does Internet work?
  5. Why do Russia China hate ICANN?
  6. What is ICANN?
  7. Functions of ICANN
  8. Why did WCIT Conference fail?
  9. Why USA opposed the ITU treaty?
    1. #1: Internet Governance
    2. #2: Network Security
    3. #3: Spam
  10. Google Company’s Stand
  11. India’s Stand on ITU treaty
  12. Summary

What is ITU?

  • ITU =International Telecommunication Union.
  • United Nations specialized agency, Deals with for information and communication technologies – ICTs.
  • HQ = Geneva, Switzerland
  • Membership: Both Nations and Private Players.
  • However, ITU allows only its member nations to vote. Private organizations can participate in its proceedings by paying a large annual fee but cannot propose amendments or vote.

What does ITU do?

  1. Radio spectrum allocation
  2. Satellite Orbit Allocation
  3. Standards for Voice, video compression, TV signals etc. (Similar to that “IUPAC chemical formulas”).
  4. Bridge the digital divide. (internet connectivity in schools/villages of poor nations etc).

Why Conference in Dubai?

  • The current Internet, satellite, telephone, television systems run according to International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) made in Melbourne Conference in the late 80s.
  • But after that, so much progress in telecom and internet.
  • So there was need to review and update those those Regulations.
  • Besides the World leaders were feeling thirsty for desi liquor and wanted to agonize UPSC aspirants with one more current-affairs topic, so they decided to hold a conference in Dubai, in December 2012.
  • Official name of this conference: World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT).
  • But this conference was a fiasco. Before going into that aspect, let’s understand a side-topic

How does Internet work?

how internet works

  • Before mobile phones, we had to keep telephone diary at home. E.g. “U letter->UPSC->011-23385271” (or memorize that number in your brain)
  • But now thanks to mobile phones, era of telephone diaries is gone.
  • We don’t need to remember any number, just save them in your mobile for once, then just select “UPSC” and your mobile’s software will automatically dial that number.
  • Websites also work on a similar principle.
  • Websites are hosted on “servers”.
  • Each server has unique IP Address.
  • Suppose there is some anti-China or pro-Tibet website, with its server in USA, IP address 420.420.420.420.
  • But there are crores of websites on internet, each with such special numbers (IP Addresses.)
  • A human user cannot remember all those numbers. So here domain name system (DNS) helps us.
  • Suppose Domain name of that Anti-China website is “i-hatechina dot com”.
  • Now, there is one ICANN organization. It maintains root-directories, similar to those telephone directories, they translate DNS into IP address
  • for example “i-hatechina dot com=>420.420.420.420”, and send you to the correct website.

Why do Russia China hate ICANN?

  • Continuing the same example, Chinese Government doesn’t want people to view this “i-hatechina dot com”website.
  • So they’ll will order China based internet service providers (ISPs) to block content.
  • Although some Chinese people can still try access that website via proxies.
  • Besides, if you’re not in China, you can view the website anyways- from France, US, Sweden etc. anywhere in the world.
  • Because there exists a root-directory with ICANN, and it says 420.420.420.420=i-hatechina dot com”
  • But if Chinese Government could edit the root-directory, and remove the address “420.420.420.420=i-hatechina dot com”, then no matter where you are and which proxy technique you use, you can never access that website.

But still that doesn’t explain why Russia-China (and other countries) hate ICANN?

  • Well, ICANN is not a United Nations body.
  • It is a non governmental Organization located in California, USA.
  • It falls under the legal jurisdiction of USA  (and not of United Nations).
  • But if some XYZ UN agency was controlling DNS, IP Address, root-directory, and this organization has 10 nations in its governing council. Russia/China can bribe or bully 6 of them and get a vote or resolution passed in their favour to edit root-directories.
  • On the other hand, USA wants to keep Status-quo, with ICANN.
  • Because USA  can still control ICANN under national laws. They’re passing SOPA, PIPA laws that will empower USA Government agencies to edit root-directories to “combat piracy and enforce intellectual property rights.”

What is ICANN?

  • Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
  • HQ=California,USA.

Functions of ICANN

Deals with Doesnot deal with
  1. Internet Protocol (IP) address
  2. Domain Name System (DNS)
  3. Top level domains (.com, etc)
  1. Internet content control
  2. Unsolicited commercial email (spam)
  3. Data protection, data-theft
  4. Financial transactions (online banking, paypal etc).

Now coming back to the original topic.

ITU held a conference in Dubai, to make a new global treaty on how to handle International voice, data and video traffic.

Why did WCIT Conference fail?

  • Because the delegates of U.S., UK, Australia and Canada happily consumed desi liquor but when it came to signing the treaty, they simply refused and walked out of the conference.
  • India also refused to sign treaty, but didn’t walk out of the conference, perhaps because our delegates wanted to drink more free booze before the party was over.

ITU treaty about ICANN

Why USA opposed the ITU treaty?

  • United States says we cannot sign these international telecommunication regulations (ITRs) in their current form. Because of following reasons.

#1: Internet Governance

  • During the conference, some members (Russia,China) made proposals seeking government control over Internet naming and addressing functions. (DNS, IP address. Already explained above.)
  • They also want to inspect and censor incoming and outgoing Internet traffic on the premise of monitoring criminal behavior, filtering spam, or protecting national security.
  • We (USA) believe these issues cannot be legitimately handled in this conference. ITU is a telecommunication related organization, and internet governance is outside the scope and functions of this organization.

Official reasons given

  1. A bureaucratic body like UN or ITU cannot efficiently control Critical Internet resources.
  2. Governments lack the expertise to keep pace with rapid technological challenges.
  3. USA wants to protect freedom of speech on Internet(!)

Unofficial reasons

  1. The Corporate giants have spent truckload of cash in lobbying to US senators and Government to ensure that status quo is maintained regarding Internet (California based ICANN should oversee the DNS, IP etc. And the matter should not be given to ITU or UN)
  2. Otherwise USA itself is no place for free speech! They want to arrest wikileaks founder Julian Assange. And they have also prohibited American banks from processing any donations made to Wikileaks. So, This is like replay of India’s dual-standards on Airport development fee (from previous GMR-Male Controversy article).
  3. Plus, USA is making Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) which are, in broad sense, anti-free-speech laws.

Anyways, first reason = USA  wants to protect freedom of speech. Moving to second reason

#2: Network Security

  • During the Dubai conference, some members wanted the treaty to handle matters of network security, virus, hacking etc.
  • USA says: ITU cannot address security issues. It cannot make any practical improvements on security.

#3: Spam

  • Some members wanted that ITU should have control over Spam.
  • But USA is against this. Because spam is a form of ‘content’.
  • When ITU starts controlling spam, later it can start controlling other contents: political, religious and cultural newsletters and mails etc. So again We (USA) want to protect the freedom of Speech.

Google company is also against ITU treaty.

Google Company’s Stand

  • At Dubai conference, The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is bringing together regulators from around the world to re-negotiate a decades-old communications treaty.
  • But we oppose it for following reasons:

Free internet necessary

  • The Internet empowers everyone—anyone can speak, create, learn and share.
  • Today, more than two billion people are online—about a third of the planet.
  • But Not all governments around the world support a free and open Internet.
  • Russia, Iran, Cuba, China etc. block and control access to the Internet for their citizens.

Governments are trying to control Internet

  • Now, via ITU conference @Dubai, Some of these governments (Russia, China) are trying to use a closed-door meeting to regulate the Internet even more strictly.
  • While delegates from those nations enjoy the voting powers but the IT Engineers, companies, and people that build and use the web have no vote during these ITU treaty negotiations!
  • Some proposals could allow governments to censor legitimate speech, or even allow them to cut off Internet access.
  • So ITR= Anti-free speech.
  • Other proposals would require YouTube, Facebook, and Skype to pay new taxes to reach people across borders. Then internet-services could become expensive, and less people can access it. (Particularly Africa, Latin America, Asia).

To sum up, the Anti-Arguments are

  1. ITU’s treaty will lead to state censorship and regulation of the internet.
  2. Internet policy should not be determined by Governments but by citizens, communities, private sector and civil society. (bottom up approach rather than top-down)

India’s Stand on ITU treaty

India has not signed the ITR in its current form, saying:

  • We donot want ITU to govern Internet.
  • We donot want ITU to control traffic and content of Internet.
  • We have only favoured the inclusion of Internet matters related to availability and security of telecom services.
  • The new International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) should reflect the current global realities and the dynamics of the Internet
  • therefore, We want to undertake necessary consultations at home before announcing our final decision.

By the way, some websites say India signed WCIT treaty but that information  is not correct.

  • A website named “medianama” incorrectly published report India has signed treaty, then many other websites copied that article. So google throws up search result “India signed treaty”, however two days back Medianama issued apology about its incorrect report.


  1. ITU held WCIT-2012 conference in Dubai.
  2. Aim= To create a global treaty on how to handle international voice, video and data traffic.
  3. Result= #EPICFAIL
  4. Why? Because USA, Canada, India, Australia etc. refused to sign, (mainly) over disagreement on how to control internet.


  1. Write a note on WCIT Conference. (10marks)
  2. Write essay on “The New Cold War”. (200marks)