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[council] A view on the ITU

Fellow Names Council members
I have observed the exchange of views on the ITU and read their
While respecting the ITU for the work they do, I think it would be
constructive to recognise some important facts and I provide here some
personal observations.

There are some fundamental differences about the ITU and the
environment/market that existed at the time the ITU was set up and that
which the Internet exists and operates in now.

When the ITU was set up, most telephone companies were either state owned,
mostly as part of the government post office, or were closely government
regulated legislated monopolies. In that environment it was appropriate that
the major "owners" of the businesses be the active stakeholders in any
international body convened to manage the interoperating of those telephone
companies - ie. the world's governments. Given the government's central role
in telephony, it was also convenient for them to fulfil the role of
representing the end-user constituency.

Today much of what the ITU used to do, particularly in technology standards
setting and in developing and enforcing commercial policy, has moved onto
other bodies or back to business. 
For example, new CPE and transmission protocols and standards are developed
and agree far more quickly through intra-industry consortia or other
standards setting bodies such as ETSI. The old accounting rate regime policy
of apportioning costs and revenues from international traffic have all but
died and have been replaced with bilateral business-to-business competitive
contracts - without any government or ITU involvement. 
While governments continue to hold voting member status in the ITU, most of
the telecommunications industry and certainly the users of
telecommunications - from the largest multinationals to the individual
residential consumer - have no involvement, representation on or receive
direct benefits from, the ITU.

By the time that it was recognised that an internationally based management
of key aspects of the Internet was needed, the Internet had already moved
from a government/academic centred/hosted arrangement and was increasingly
being driven by and needing to meet, diverse commercial/non
commercial/private individual, as well as government interests. In addition
there is a high awareness by the full breadth of users of the Internet as to
the benefits of being directly involved in contributing to the policy
development of the Internet.
Such a direct interest in the policy development role can not be easily
fulfilled through such legacy inter-governmental organisations as the ITU.

On a different but parallel matter, I think it is worth reflecting on the
success that ICANN has been able to achieve given the environment that it
has suffered under since its creation.
I can not think of a body tasked with the same sort of challenges as ICANN,
that has had to face the funding problems that it does and also that is as
open as it is to the vociferous criticism that it receives.
Intergovernmental bodies don't suffer the corrosive force of vicious, rude,
personal attacks like those exchanged in the various ICANN fora, nor are
other international bodies as open in provision of information - with real
time comments lists and net broadcasts - as ICANN.
Given these very real debilitating and "revealing" pressures respectively,
it is a miracle that ICANN has achieved anything!

Those of us who are committed and contributing to the constructive
advancement of the Internet through ICANN, welcome Stuart's review but don't
subscribe to "chucking out the baby with the bath water".


Grant Forsyth
Business Constituency Representative to the Names Council

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