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The 12th World Congress on IT (WCIT-12) in Dubai has ended in failure after 80 nations – including Australia and the USA – refused to sign a declaration that would have effectively handed control of the Internet over to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and away from the currently independent ICANN (International Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names).

The objecting nations, led by the USA, claimed the move would have seen the Net redefined as a system of networks that would be government-controlled and state-supervised.

Australia’s Comms and Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy said: “It is greatly disappointing that a consensus [at WCIT-12] could not be reached. Australia worked hard to develop suitable text for the ITRs [international telecommunications regulations] that would have been acceptable to every member state.

“Unfortunately, this was not achieved. Australia’s consistent position has been that the Internet should not be included in the ITRs. This is a point on which we would not compromise.

“Australia does not support any changes that would undermine the current multi-stakeholder model for Internet governance or fundamentally change the way the Internet operates. Australia believes that the approach taken by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names (ICANN), which has input from industry stakeholders, governments and the public, remains the best way to sustain the Internet’s growth and innovation.”

Commented Graeme Philipson, recently-appointed editor of Exchange telecoms newsletter and a major contributor to news site ITWire: “For such a major conference to end in such disagreement is unusual, and does not bode well for the future of the ITU.

“Its deliberations will have no effect whatsoever on the way the Internet is governed and used, and the Internet is the future – if not the present – of telecommunications. By its attempts to seize control of the Internet, the ITU has rendered itself largely irrelevant. Technology has left it behind.”

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