US Delegation to Dubai Internet Negotiations To Be Larded With (Dominated By?) Industry Reps

US Delegation to Dubai Internet Negotiations To Be Larded With (Dominated By?) Industry Reps

In a development that sounds (at least obliquely) in informal lawmaking, this from the very informative blog at The Hill:

Representatives from Google, Cisco, Facebook, Microsoft and AT&T will join Obama administration officials at a December conference in Dubai to negotiate the terms of an international telecommunications treaty.

The industry members are part of the 95-person delegation representing the United States as it opposes potential efforts to expand a United Nations agency’s authority over the management of the Internet during the upcoming treaty talks. They will join a group of officials from the State Department, Department of Defense, Federal Communications Commission and other agencies, along with a team of telecommunications attorneys from Wiley Rein and representatives from advocacy groups and trade organizations.

Countries from around the world will convene in Dubai to update the International Telecommunications Regulations treaty for the first time since 1988. The treaty will govern how voice, video and Web traffic will be managed as it travels across international borders.

Amazon, Intel, Juniper Networks, PayPal, Sony, TMG Telecom, Verizon, Ericsson and Go Daddy also have representatives on the U.S. delegation, while consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge is sending two representatives.

The lead-up to the Dubai negotiations, under International Telecommunications Union auspices, is starting to have a very big deal feel to it (see this somewhat long read from the Guardian on its various dimensions — it’s much more complex and cross-cutting than some are making it out to be). Westphalian possibilities?

I see two possible models for the broad non-state representation, which is possibly unprecedented (although industry has always been heavily involved at the ITU). First would be talkshop, in which included non-state representatives get the extra status that comes with inclusion on an official delegation and some access to state representatives. That would be a bump for lesser known entities like “dotGay LLC” (also on the delegation). But the real dealmaking remains an exclusively intergovernmental undertaking.

The other would be along the lines of corporate sponsorship of Olympic competitors.  That would be much more robust kind of involvement – the state provides the nameplate but nonstate actors are more like partners than hangers-on.

Ultimately it may not make much difference. Power rises to the top. Google, Facebook, Microsoft & co. will have a lot of pull at these negotiations, state-centric procedures or not.  Perhaps it would make more sense (from a transparency perspective) just to give the industry giants their own nameplates, so that we know better who’s speaking for whom.

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Benjamin Davis
Benjamin Davis

Reminds me of being a legacy netizen member of ICANN in the lates 90’s and early 00’s. this ITU effort to control the space has been rumbling around since 98 or so if memory serves me right. I wonder how the late Jom Postel would react to this.


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