A largely procedural event, the conference aim was to update a global telecoms treaty last negotiated in 1988. But from the outset, the event was marked by intensive political and commercial lobbying, particularly on behalf of the US. Ambassador
After two weeks of complex negotiations, the treaty failed. The US saw the failure as a victory, claiming that the internet has never needed UN regulation and that the treaty was not consistent, in the words of US delegation head
The US claimed that the treaty attempted to extend its telecoms remit to "grab control of the internet", which one critic said would see the internet develop conflicting standards and competing jurisdictions on a par with the European train system. Countries which unsuccessfully supported the revised International Telecommunications Regulations claimed the opposite; that the treaty enables standardisation, as it has done historically with dialling codes and consistent phone keyboards. They argued that the lobbying was more about protecting a western-dominated, US-centric internet administration.
In the wake of the revelations over the extent of international surveillance conducted by
"Many countries are not comfortable with what they perceive as the dominant role of the US," he said. "In Dubai, many people were wondering why the US was making so much fuss about such treaty provisions that were in fact inoffensive from a legal point of view. Why were they expending so much political capital for so little? At the time, many thought it was a question of principle. After the revelations concerning the NSA surveillance, it seems reasonable to infer that the US did not wish to agree to anything that might limit its surveillance programmes – and having to co-operate with other countries might have such an effect."
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