300px James L. Connaughton  Internet Industry Irked By Government Interference

Visit aglaia.co.in James L. Connaughton, Chairman, Council on Environment Quality, The White House, addressed Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) members at a meeting in New Delhi, August 22, 2006. (Image For James L. Connaughton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Sunil Kumar


India‘s supportive vote for International Telecom Union’s proposals to a UN-backed body to regulate internet has irked the stakeholders in local internet industry, which has warned government to refrain from voting in ITU on issues other than telecom.


Earlier this month, ITU, a body under United Nations for the first time introduced proposals seeking to define spam, and cyber fraud in a way that would have brought the some aspects of regulating the ‘international network‘ under its ambit. While India is yet to sign off on the proposals, the state’s public posturing indicated a supportive stand.


“ITU should only focus on telecom sector and not get into information and communication technology as they have tried to do through the Dubai convention last week,” said Subho Ray President of Internet and Mobile Association of India. IAMAI has Indian arms of multinational internet firms such as Ebay, Google, Facebook and Yahoo! as members.


The proposals have also created an international stand-off with US, UK and other large European economies rejecting the need for such UN-backed regulation of the internet, while Russia, China and United Arab Emirates found it useful to have such control. Some analysts have even called it the new cold war.


The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Cellular Operators Association of India have also asked the government not to support ITU proposals, as it fears it would put curbs on internet usage.


“It is now well recognised that law enforcement agencies can misinterpret language even when it is not intended – Mumbai arrest of the two girls being a case in point,” FICCI and COAI said in a joint submission. The proposals, they said, would create new binding legal obligations on member states that may be in conflict with national sovereignty.


“Defining spam requires making content-based determinations; a treaty-based obligation could lead to India having to cooperate with other countries on controlling political or commercial speech,” the associations cautioned.


Industry is also not enthused about ITU’s proposals to bring regional internet exchanges under its ambit as it would give the UN body a role in overseeing commercial agreements for Internet traffic exchanges, according to Rajan S Mathews, director general at COAI, which counts AirtelBSE 2.78 %, Vodafone, and Reliance CommunicationsBSE 1.30 %.


The Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI) says any UN body on internet governance, even if formed, should completely keep itself out of content-related matters.


“I think a UN body should be formed only if it involves multiple stakeholders including private sector, and not only governments as has been the case with UN bodies,” said Rajesh Chharia, ISPAI president.



 Internet Industry Irked By Government Interference
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