Development and Progress of the World Conference on International Telecommunications Currently Being Held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates Until December 14, 2012
Ambassador U.S. Head of Delegation, World Conference on International Telecommunications
MR. HENSMAN: Thank you. Good morning, everyone, or afternoon. Thanks for joining us. Today we’ve got an on-the-record conference call with Ambassador Terry Kramer, who is the U.S. Head of Delegation for the World Conference on International Telecommunications taking place in Dubai. We do have journalists that are in the room as well as dialed in, so we’re going to try and alternate as best we can within the time allowed to get questions from both groups.
With that, let me turn it over to Ambassador Kramer.
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: Great. Well, thank you very much, and I wanted to welcome all of you that are here in Dubai as well as all of you on the phone. I wanted to also to start out by thanking all of you for your ongoing coverage, because transparency in the process and the nature of the discussions here is absolutely critical, so thanks to all of you.
I also wanted to just take a minute to thank the ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Toure. I think he’s done a very good job of laying out a vision for what the conference is all about and also ensuring that there’s an active and honest dialogue amongst everyone here. So a special thank you to Hamadoun Toure.
I wanted to reiterate his vision for this conference, which is: How do we find the best ways to accelerate broadband availability globally. I also want to thank the city of Dubai, the leaders of Dubai, for hosting what has been a good event. I think this city is a great example of what we talk about in the telecomm and the internet sectors, the city being dynamic, being entrepreneurial, being growth oriented, it’s a great setting for what we’re doing here.
And finally, I wanted to thank the conference chair, Mr. Mohamed Al Ghanim. And he’s had – really done a great job at being able to look at a lot of different issues, but also move through issues at a good pace. So he’s done a great job.
What we wanted to do on this call is take stock of where we’re at – we’re obviously a few days into this conference – and share where we see progress and also share where we need to see further progress to ensure a successful outcome. Now, as all of you know, our own vision for this conference is to ensure that we’re seeing a successful environment for the telecomm and internet sectors. It’s important to continue to remind ourselves that that’s the goal of what we all should be doing here as leaders.
As we’re only a few days into it, I can say we’ve seen a couple of good elements of progress in our work. As many of you know, a week ago we submitted, along with our Canadian colleagues, a proposal that called for an immediate look at a foundational element in this conference. And that specifically is: What organizations or sectors are we going to look at here? And as you know, we’re looking specifically from a U.S. and Canada point of view in this proposal to be focused on the telecomm sector, not on the internet sector. And as part of that, we feel strongly that the agencies that should be reviewed in this agreement should be recognized operating agencies.
Recognized operating agencies are public providers of telecommunications services. So in the U.S., this would be providers such as AT&T and Verizon. What recognized operating agencies does not include would be private networks, which a lot of the internet players would be in there, ham radio operators would be in there, and government networks would not be in there. So we want to stay pure to the focus of this conference, which is on telecomm service providers.
Now, let me tell you where a couple of the areas of success has been. First of all, it’s been agreement on the overall wording of the preamble. The preamble lays out the general focus of the conference and the references to the original constitution. There was also agreement on the definition of telecommunications, which we think is an important first step to ensure that we’re not confusing the ICT sector, companies that are involved in processing, et cetera. So the focus and definition of telecommunications was a success.
A final item is the one, importantly, that is left remaining to be determined, and that’s whether the focus is going to be on recognized operating agencies or operating agencies. Operating agencies is a much broader term. Again, it includes the internet sector in that mix. So that issue has left to be worked on. We’ve been spending quite a bit of time working with a variety of countries in bilateral discussions to specifically focus on this recognized operating agency issue.
Again, fundamentally, the conference, to us, should not be dealing with the internet sector. That carries significant implications that could open the doors to things such as content censorship. It could also introduce payment models that we would be significantly concerned would reduce traffic. And so we think keeping to the pure focus of this conference on advancing broadband in a telecomm arena is absolutely the right approach.
Now, we’re seeing several countries throughout the world that have been good supporters of our position on keeping the internet out of this and focusing on recognized operating agencies. These are countries in a variety of regions, specifically in Europe, in Latin America, and in the Asia Pacific in addition to our partners in North America. So we’re very encouraged by that. And in that support, we see a common alignment about the need for multi-stakeholder organizations driving a lot of the successes in the market, and also the importance and criticality of liberalized markets, liberalized markets where there are competitive alternatives, where there are a variety of providers, providing a variety of alternatives that drives down prices and creates better availability.
So again, a couple areas of success, an area that needs to critically be focused on, on recognized operating agencies. And we’ll be working that issue literally day and night over the next few days.
So let me stop here and take any questions that you have.
OPERATOR: Thank you. And ladies and gentlemen, if you do have a question on the phone, you can press * then 1 on your touchtone phone, and you will hear a tone indicating you’ve been placed into queue. You can remove yourself from the queue by pressing the # key. If you’re using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers.
Once again, if you have a question on the phone, press * then 1 at this time. And one moment for the first question.
MR. HENSMEN: Megan, if we have a question from the room, we can start there.
MS. MATTSON: Could you state who you are and where you – what organization?
QUESTION: Matt Smith from Reuters. I just have one little question, do you think the focus of conference should be on broadband or, something about – see what you can do about telecomm, does that contradict?
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: No, broadband is basically the term for high-speed telecomm networks. So we very much believe in providing broadband access globally. That then allows people to access the internet, et cetera. What we are saying, though, is internet by itself, which gets into content, gets into applications, et cetera, is an area that should not be the focus. So again, the core network that provides all the service and the high-speed nature of it, broadband, we think is absolutely the right focus and the right vision for the conference.
MR. HENSMAN: Okay. Let’s go to the next question from the phones.
OPERATOR: Thank you. We go to David McAuley with Bloomberg. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Ambassador Kramer, thank you very much for this time.
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: Sure. Thank you, David.
QUESTION: One comment. When there’s a question in the room, I don’t think we can hear it on the phone.
Secondly, the – I understand the definition for telecommunications has been set. This morning, in the conference that the – in the media conference that the ITU holds, Director Peprah from Ghana mentioned that that’s the case, but ICT is still in the works – that is, the concept of information communications technology is still in the works, possibly as a defined term. Could you comment on that?
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: Yeah. We are still working through a lot of different elements of how this definition gets driven. Our view right now is it does not belong in there. There may still be people talking about ICT in different forms. And certainly, in our own discussions, people are talking about VoIP operators, Skype and others that provide what they believe is telecomm services. But we don’t feel those are appropriate.
QUESTION: Thank you.
OPERATOR: And our next question from the line of Rob Lever with AFP. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, Ambassador, thank you. There have been some reports that you’ve probably seen that the ITU approved at – I guess there was some kind of a prelude to the summit in Dubai last week – a provision allowing members to use some type of internet snooping or eavesdropping they call deep packet inspection. Can you address this, whether this is – these reports are accurate? And if they are accurate, what does that mean for your whole position and the U.S. position? What would be Washington’s view on that?
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: Yeah. So first of all, I have not seen the specific reference that you’re mentioning. Let me just talk for a second about deep packet inspections.
So, deep packet inspection has a good and a bad connotation. The original connotation of deep packet inspection was for operators to be able to look at their networks and say, “Are they performing well?” So in the mobile sector, it’s do you have blocked calls and dropped calls, et cetera. What’s happened, though, is some companies have used deep packet inspection technologies to not look at aggregate customer information, traffic information, et cetera, but to look at individual customer information. So looking at individuals and what sites they’re on and how much capacity they’re using, et cetera, as you can imagine, we’re very much opposed to that because we feel that’s a violation of people’s privacy and gets into, obviously, censorship, et cetera.
So again, deep packet inspection can get used in good and bad contexts. I’d have to see the specific reference, but anything that would go past aggregated customer information would be problematic.
QUESTION: Well, and the reports say that the ITU essentially approved this. I mean, if you’re involved in that, can you – do you not know whether they did that or not? I mean, that’s kind of important.
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: Yeah. Dick Beaird is here with me, who’s our senior director, and he’s our deputy head of delegation. Let me have him answer it.
MR. BEAIRD: Yes, thank you, just getting settled in. There was a recommendation that had been worked on for four years involved in deep packet inspection as a means of classical traffic management. It had been gone through – it was a private sector initiative, as all of these items are coming in through the ITU-T at the technical level. It had four years of vetting. And at the end of a World Telecommunications Standardization Assembly, that document came forward without opposition. There was some editing at the end of the process of approval. Some appendices were deleted because they were kind of extraneous to the actual technical aspects of the recommendation. But then it was adopted by the World Telecommunications Standardization Assembly, as I indicated.
MR. HENSMAN: Okay. For the next question, we’ll just go back to the room. And if I could remind folks in the room to please speak up so our colleagues on the line can hear your questions. Thank you.
QUESTION: Yes. My first question is about internet security.
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: I’m sorry, your name?
QUESTION: My name’s Sam Hoda from Radio Free Europe.
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Internet security is one of the key things that you mentioned (inaudible). And the Russians have proposed something that (inaudible). What is the exact position of the U.S. delegation on this (inaudible)?
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: Yeah. So this is Sam from Radio Free Europe.
MR. HENSMAN: Ambassador, I’m sorry to interrupt –
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: Yeah. And the question was on internet security, that the Russians have proposed a suggestion, a proposal on internet security.
So first of all, again, there’s an important distinguishing characteristic here. There’s some people talking about network security, having to deal with telecomm networks. There are other people talking about information security or internet security. We draw a very stark line between the two, because again, anything that gets into the content or the internet, we do not feel should be part of this treaty.
What can happen is what are seemingly harmless proposals can open the door to censorship, because people can then say, listen, as part of internet security, we see traffic and content that we don’t like. And people are making judgments, governments are making judgments about that content that, again, can be suppressing people’s freedoms and rights to express themselves, to share points of view, to access information, et cetera. So while there may be proposals on internet security, you can imagine we’re very much opposed to those.
MR. HENSMAN: Let’s go and take one from the phone lines.
OPERATOR: We go to Danny Yadron with the Wall Street Journal. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Mr. Kramer, thanks so much for doing this call.
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: Thank you.
QUESTION: I mean, you probably saw some of the reports in the U.S. yesterday that the fact that the conference has not set aside internet activity was a disappointment or some sort of rejection of what the U.S. is trying to accomplish. I realize we have several more days to go, but I mean, what’s your reaction to that, that this has not been settled yet, or it’s still being negotiated?
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: Yeah. I don’t know that I would say I was disappointed that it hasn’t been settled by now. It’s a pretty large fundamental issue, and there is a pretty big gap in points of view between a variety of nations. This again gets down to a fundamental view about telecomm versus internet, companies – not companies but countries, nations that are focused on liberalization and free speech and commercial opportunities, et cetera, and those that have a very different view of those.
So it’s not an easy issue to work through because it’s a philosophical one. So I don’t know necessarily I would have expected it to be resolved. I know what our point of view is on this, and I shared this today with Secretary General Hamadoun Toure and Chairman Mohamed Al Ghanim, is we – again, if there is a dispute on this, we need to go back to the original charter of the conference, which is: How do we advance the telecomm sector and broadband? And if there’s a dispute on the definitions and the agencies that are subject to review here, we should go back to the original ones that were in the original ITRs, which, again, are recognized operating agencies.
So that, to us, is the way you work through all of this. Short of that, it’s a problematic situation, and it’s a situation that we are not likely to negotiate on because of a significant scope creep and incursion on what we think are the wrong areas to move into.
MR. HENSMAN: I think we’ve got time for one more question, maybe two. Let’s go to the room.
QUESTION: Oh, yes. Hi. Toula Vlahou with the AP. Have you, sir, seen the proposal from Russia, Article 3A? Have you been able to read it?
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: I’ve seen a Russian proposal. I don’t remember Article 3A offhand.
QUESTION: In general, the proposal that I believe was discussed somewhat the other day with – back in some committee. What do you think of the proposal?
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: The overall Russian proposal?
QUESTION: There is this one about government management. I didn’t read it (inaudible) --
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: There’s --
QUESTION: -- having some sort of the government – as having some sort of governing over the internet.
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: Yeah. So there is a proposal – so the most dramatic element of the Russian proposal that is suggesting that internet governance get moved away from multi-stakeholder organizations such as ICANN over to government or single organizations – potentially the ITU, although I think the ITU would say it doesn’t want to be in that business. And again, we fundamentally disagree with that, because once governments are in that role, they’re in a position to make judgments about how the internet is going to operate, what type of information’s going to flow there, et cetera. So we think that multi-stakeholder organizations that are inclusive in nature, have technical expertise, and can be making independent, agile, rapid-fire decisions are the right ones from a pragmatic standpoint and from a philosophical standpoint.
QUESTION: Has there been discussion on this proposal anywhere besides the --
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: Yeah, I’m sorry, have we had discussion? Yeah. We’ve looked at the proposal, but we are not keen to get into a discussion about that proposal because, again, we think it’s out of scope for the conference.
MR. HENSMAN: Okay. Let’s take one more from the phone line, and then I think that’ll be our time, as the Secretary’s going to have her press conference.
OPERATOR: And we go to Eliza Krigman with Politico. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks so much for taking my call. I understand that yesterday there was some kind of security attack on the network, and that hackers have claimed responsibility for it. Do we – do you know for certain that it was indeed hackers that happened? And as a follow-up, Director Peprah this morning said that this is a great example of why cyber security is so important. Has this emboldened others who think that cyber security should be an element of the treaty?
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: Yeah. So first of all, I don’t think it’s been confirmed who did what in this situation. I mean, we are obviously very concerned about that incident because, as you remember, there’s been a big focus on transparency in this conference. And the ITU has made all the main plenary discussions available via webcasting. They posted the proposals on their site. So taking that site down creates an impression that there isn’t transparency. So we’re obviously just as concerned as everybody else is on that. We don’t know exactly who did what.
And I’m sorry, your second question was?
MR. HENSMAN: I think we’ve lost --
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: Okay. I think the second question was: Does this embolden people on cyber security recommendations?
First of all, on cyber security, we have always said we very much see the threat. As a matter of fact, we talk about malware incidents. There’s been 87,000 a day, and that number has doubled. So I don’t think there’s any debate about the cyber threat. The key issue is how do you solve those issues most effectively? And so our point of view is you’ve got to have a variety of organizations that, again, have got that technical expertise and that agility. And the fact the site went back up so rapidly – actually, the validation that you do need a lot of different organizations with different expertise, not one single one that kind of owns the problem. So again, we actually thought it was a helpful reminder to everybody about the necessary skills and speed to deal with the issues.
MR. HENSMAN: Thank you all for joining us. I think that’s the time that we have for today. We appreciate you participating. And thank you, Ambassador Kramer.
AMBASSADOR KRAMER: Good. Thank you all very much. Appreciate it.