michael gurstein on Thu, 11 Oct 2012 21:46:56 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> FW: The ITU/WCIT: Thinking About Internet Regulatory Policy From An LDC Perspective?

Note, this flows from a discussion that initially took place on a listserve
sponsored by ISOC on Internet Policy. I'm also putting all of this below up
on my blog http://gurstein.wordpress.com where those with an interest might
wish to carry forward this discussion and where relevant links can be found.


The extended discussion is probably only for those with an interest in
Internet Governance issues and particularly as they apply to the regulatory
regimes (and policy stances) of Less Developed Countries and I would point
those with such an interest to research papers prepared by Michael Kende of
the consulting firm AnalysysMason on behalf of Amazon, AT&T, Cisco Systems,
Comcast, Google, Intel, Juniper Networks, Microsoft, National Cable &
Telecommunications Association (NCTA), News Corporation, Oracle, Telef?nica,
Time Warner Cable, Verisign, and Verizon. 









I should say that both of these reports are very interesting and contain a
wealth of good information, however, the problem that I have with them and
particularly the second report is that it so clearly starts off with its
policy conclusion and builds a case to support this.  This is not an area of
particular expertise for me but my gut is that the conclusions as to the
appropriate policy regime for Less Developed Countries (the apparent target
for the second policy report from Michael Kende) would look quite different
if it was done from/by folks from LDC's rather than sponsored as Kende's
report was by Google, Cisco, Amazon, Microsoft and so on and so on.


I'm not exactly sure what the LDC sponsored report would say but my guess
would be that they would focus rather more on looking at how costs and
benefits are and should be distributed as between some of the wealthiest
companies from some of the wealthiest countries and LDC's looking to
increase Internet access overall in environments of very low incomes, very
difficult physical environments, extremely weak regulatory and taxation
regimes, and vast areas and populations who might under some circumstances
derive benefit from Internet access but who would under almost any
conceivable current situation find paying for this almost impossible.


My hunch is that they wouldn't start out with indicating as the number one
recommendation of the report -- the basic point of the overall report from
what I can see -- the overwhelming importance of

Promoting network infrastructure: (by a) Focus on increasing investments
throughout the network, from mobile broadband access through national and
cross-border connectivity and IXPs, by removing roadblocks to lower the cost
of investment, including allocating spectrum for mobile broadband or
limiting licensing requirements and fees, in order to promote competitive
entry and growth.


>From what I am seeing (and Kende's report is as good a signal as any) the
Internet biggies are running a bit scared (the term "moral panic" comes to
mind) as to what "madness" might come out of the WCIT meeting that the ITU
is hosting in December in Dubai. And they are pulling out all the stops in
trying to derail any real discussion on how the costs and benefits might be
allocated of improving/extending Internet access in and into LDC's and
within LDC's to the other 99% or so in those countries who currently have no
possible means of access. This is of course because the ITU as the
traditional venue for global telecom "governance" includes among its 195 or
so Member States a very goodly proportion, probably a majority, who are
currently experiencing net costs (including many regimes who see these costs
in terms of lost political control) from Internet access and paticularly if
attempts at extending access to rural and maginalized populations are taken
into consideration, rather than net benefits and not surprisingly they are
looking at ways of righting that balance.


And so instead of actually sitting down and trying to figure out a global
regime for Internet (and possibly other) governance, that might in some
sense lead to an equitable distribution of costs and benefits the biggies
are launching verbal, research and whatever types of broadsides infinite
amounts of money, easy access to expertise and the current ascendance of
neo-libertarian (anti-State, anti-tax) ideology can muster.


I myself am of two minds on this issue.  I well recognize the value/benefits
that could flow from Internet access even to the poorest of the poor and the
overwhelming benefits that Internet access provides to those for example in
civil society who can take advantage of its more or less unlimited free flow
of communications and information (including through undermining various
repressive political regimes). On the other hand, the unlimited unregulated
policy environment advocated by reports like that of Kende and others of
that ideological ilk would I think, lead almost directly to a further
enrichment of the already stupendously wealthy and overall a signifcant
transfer of wealth and benefit from those with the least to those with the


The challenge I think is to recognize both of the above as equally
likely/possible outcomes.  This implies the need to design and implement a
global regime which ensures the possibility of universal access to the
benefits of the Internet while ensuring that the provision of these
opportunities does not further enmiserate those currently least able to
obtain these benefits at least in part by destroying the means by which such
possible access to benefits could through public intervention, regulation
and yes, even taxation ensure that such a possibility of benefits can be
translated into actuality. 




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