A few weeks ago you might have heard a bit of hubbub around the internet about a top-secret UN meeting to do with telecommunications. Basically, it was the International Telecommunications Union holding a top secret meeting about the future of international telco standards. The hubbub was caused because the ITU wanted these regulations to contain rules about how the internet ought to be governed in future. That's when Australia put its foot down.
You see, after the whole filtering nonsense went sideways on the government, it has had a bit of a change of heart about the world wide web. Senator Stephen Conroy, ex-filter champion and Federal Communications Minister, said today that the fundamental idea of how the internet is governed (i.e.: by everyone) shouldn't be undermined.
As a result, Australia refused to sign the International Telecommunications Regulations — a big document that says how the world's telco networks ought to connect and communicate. That's a big deal. Why? Well because it means Australia — the little country that could — just flipped the bird to every member of the UN who wanted the internet to be regulated by the UN.
Here's the statement from Conroy:
It is greatly disappointing that a consensus could not be reached. Australia worked hard to develop suitable text for the ITRs that would have been acceptable to every Member State. Unfortunately, this was not achieved. Australia’s consistent position has been that the internet should not be included in the ITRs. This is a point on which we would not compromise.
Australia does not support any changes that would undermine the current multi-stakeholder model for internet governance or fundamentally change the way the internet operates. Australia believes that the approach taken by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names (ICANN), which has input from industry stakeholders, governments and the public, remains the best way to sustain the internet’s growth and innovation.
It remains Australia’s view that for the ITRs to be enduring and useful they should focus on the interconnection of international telecommunication networks.
The decision not to sign the ITRs does not mean that Australia is stepping back from our engagement with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The ITU does great work in connecting the world and we greatly value the ITU’s capacity building work in the Asia-Pacific region and the rest of the world. We are proud to be part of that work.
Why did Australia fundamentally disagree with the new regulations? Because countries like Russia and China — who are also big fans of filtering — are pushing to regulate the internet. Not cool.
Bravo, Australia. [DBCDE]