http://www.forbes.com/sites/eliseac...d-the-internet-won-wcit-summit-in-dubai-ends/ by Elize Ackerman Summit in Dubai Ends For the last two weeks some of the planet’s most oppressive regimes have faced off against some of the most powerful Internet advocates in an effort to rewrite a multilateral communications treaty that, if successful, could have changed the nature of the Internet and altered the way it is governed. On Thursday night that effort failed, as a US-led block of dissenting countries refused to sign the proposed updates, handing the United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union a humbling defeat. The United States, which framed its dissent as defending “the open Internet,” was joined by more than 80 other countries, including Australia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Greece, Italy, Japan, Kenya, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Sweden and the United Kingdom. (Some of the non-signers seemed to be seeking to avoid making too overt of a political statement, saying, regrettably that they could not sign because they had to “consult with capital.”) On Friday, the remaining members of the ITU, which is made up of 193 countries, signed the treaty, known as International Telecommunications Regulations, but the gesture in many ways was hollow. Like other U.N. agencies, the ITU strives for consensus, and it’s within that consensus that the ITU derives its authority. The ITU can’t force a country to abide by its treaties, but if representatives of all member countries agree to a global telecommunications framework, and subsequently pass laws enforcing the framework, the ITU itself grows stronger. In contrast, the collapse of negotiations around the treaty update exposed the ITU as woefully out of step with the most technologically advanced sectors of the global society. “Efforts to bring its core telecom regulations into the Internet era had exposed the organization to modern realities that it was incapable of dealing with,” writes Kieren MCarthy of Dot-nxt.com. “In the end, they proved overwhelming.” The ITU is used to operating behind closed doors. In an era marked by the shift toward video communications and an accompanying global movement for greater government transparency, the UN initially provided few details about preparatory meetings leading up to the conference and only belatedly began putting related documents online. Interpreted as a power grab by the United Nations, the secrecy rang alarm bells. Distrust of the ITU began to approach panic after the contents of more controversial proposals became known. Some of the proposals endorsed by authoritarian countries would have increased censorship, potentially restricted the free flow of information and undermined the voluntary framework that forms the basis of today’s Internet. “We are the web,” Google declared in a campaign against the ITU’s treaty-writing effort. “A free and open world depends on a free and open Internet. Governments alone, working behind closed doors, should not direct its future.” Meanwhile, the actual negotiations at the World Conference of International Telecommunications had the feel of watching footage from a bygone era. Attendees from the public could listen to interminable discussions of minutiae, but only delegates could vote— which they did by raising a yellow paddle. When it was clear that there would be no consensus, Hamadoun I. Toure, the secretary general of the ITU, issued a statement. “History will show that the conference has achieved something extremely important,” he said. “It has succeeded in bringing unprecedented public attention to the different and important perspectives that govern global communications.” But the lesson that history shows will likely be more pointed. The Internet, and the forces that support the free and open movement of information rolled over traditional UN alliances at the WCIT. An effort to shift governance of the Internet from private bodies like ICANN and IETF was thwarted. The conference did not mark the end of the battle to control what has emerged as the world’s most powerful communications medium. But it very likely marked a turning point.