October 9th, 2004

More happenings at WTSA

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WTSA is the meeting to layout workplans for ITU-T for the next four years. So even though ITU-T is supposing a technical group in ITU, the issues discussed here are more politically, like elections of chairs for various SGs, telco issues like callback and also several Internet issues.

I wasn’t able to stay for the conclusion for WTSA as I need to fly back to Singapore for N+I Asia. But here are some of the Internet issues that was discussed at this meeting.

1. Spam

There are two proposals on spam: one for ITU-T (working with IETF) to develop definitions and recommendations for spam and the other is a recommendation for ITU Council to propose to the Member States for a multiliteral MoU on spam.

Many of the developing countries see ITU-T as the organization to provide guidances for spam. One even expressed that if the world has adopted X.400, then spam would not have existed in the first place (ha!). As it stands, the first proposal didn’t get much resistance but the second one is not going through easily. Even countries who have sign MoU on spams aren’t prepared to do a multilteral MoU and many arent sure if ITU is the right place to do this.

2. Internet Governance

The proposal is to create a temporary group in ITU-T to develop definitions for the “telecommunication component of the Internet” or essentially “Internet Governance”.

The politics here are pretty complicated. On the surface, the idea is sound: Create a group in ITU-T and provide input to the WSIS-WGIG via the Internet Governnance WG under ITU Council. Take off one layer: the developing countries considered this as a mechanism to have input to the WSIS-WGIG while the developed countries are worried having more groups to deal with. At another layer: there are concerns that someone may hijack the group; And at another layer…(you got the idea)…

3. ccTLD

The proposal is to ask ITU-T to look into ccTLD delegation issues, with a subtle hint for ITU-T to take over ccTLD delegation (which is the primarly role for ICANN).

This is strongly supported by countries who are particularly unhappy with ICANN and is equally opposed by countries who support ICANN. Countries who are unhappy with ICANN have a valid reasons to be so, ranging from getting ‘No’ from ICANN (which is unusual to them considering who they are) to those who feel threaten by the idea (misconception) that root servers are solely controlled by US.

Oh yes, this is one topic which has a lot of political sparing. I am particularly impressed with a political trap hatched to stop this proposal (whether successful or not remains to be seen :-).

4. IDN

Yes, there is a proposal for ITU-T to do something (still vague at this moment) on IDN. ;-)

Politics here are fun too. Countries that would normally object for ITU-T to get more involved in Internet issues couldn’t say no this time. It is too politically incorrect for them to say ‘No, I don’t think ITU-T shouldn’t do Internationalization’. And of course, with such a powerful political weapon, the proponate for ITU-T is not letting go of this opportunity.

Do I feel upset that IDN is been used? Nay, I am already used to it :-)


The proposal to ask SG2 to continue to work on ENUM is pretty straightforward.

The difficult part is the subtle hint for ITU-T to take over the control of the root servers. The issue is that while ITU-T and RIPE-NCC has some agreement over the administrative control of ENUM delegations, some countries are concerned that IAB could unilterally give that control to someone else. And also applies to the root servers.

Personal Opinions:

I believe the tension between ICANN and ITU is not healthy for everyone; Afterall, there are many issues wrt Internet and no single organization can deal with all of them. So collobrations are more important; Internationalization of the Internet cannot be done without Unicode Consortium and Spam cannot be done without IETF. So there is a role for ICANN and there is a role for ITU and so we need to find ways to work together.

On the other hand, having involved in ICANN from almost the very beginning, I think some of the problems are ICANN own doings.

Failure to engage governments, especially developing countries, and not sensitive enough, especially when saying ‘No’ (there is a differences between ‘I am sorry…’ and ‘f*** off!’). In fact, the pre-reformed ICANN make a conscious effort to ignore government representatives (based on a personal incident). While the new ICANN is trying to change that, the damges are done and it takes time to heal.

The root server is also a problem ICANN failed on two counts: (1) the failure to win trust from the other governments (esp. those with weak diplomatic ties with US) and (2) the failure to get US DoC to sign off control. Several countries already expressed that US (esp. one company) still having full control over the root servers is not acceptable. Like it or not, this is not going to go away and I expect this to be bought up in WGIG or other forum. At it stands, it is not looking good; A friend from a country that is considered very friendly to ICANN relates to me in private that even they can’t side ICANN over this. Would be ugly if bring to a vote.


First of all, I am speaking for myself and myself only, ie this does not represent Singapore position on these matters. Secondly, this is a personal observation of WTSA – the political issues are deep so someone else who attend the meetings may arrived at a conclusion from mine.

It is also important to note that a lot of time are spent in debating over the wordings of the proposals but I didn’t use those wordings. (I am writing a blog, not a legal document, for goodness sake). If you are interested in these issues I mention here, you strongly suggest you read the original documents.

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