Few things have perplexed me as much as the goings on in Dubai this past week. The ITU summit has purported to be ready to update the treaty that underlies telecommunications regulations worldwide, but reality has clearly intruded in the form of gridlock.
The US, Canada, and European allies tried to push their agenda through, attempting to codify the status of content providers like Google and Facebook as a totally separate thing from the internet. Now, I’m not a fan of making content providers pay directly for infrastructure buildouts and such, but drawing a line in the sand between artificial categories is already living in the past. Google operates one of the biggest networks out there whether you call them a service provider or not, as are most big content providers, while various telecoms are offering content services all over the planet. Of course, the opponents calling for a wholesale endorsement of a ‘sender pays’ model aren’t going to get what they want either, that would be equally disastrous.
Then Russia, China, and some in the Middle East tried to do the same, attempting to redefine the internet as a set of interconnected government networks. Yeah, that’ll work, just tell the west that networks should be nationalized and offer justification under international law for the Great Firewall of China and other abusive usages. Why even bother to make such a crazy proposal when the vast majority of internet infrastructure would refuse to acknowledge it even if it somehow passed? After leaks led to a deserved public relations nightmare, they’ve withdrawn the idea for now.
But seriously, did we call a historic conference on this just to rehash unresolved issues we already know that nobody can agree on a few more times? As the immortal Yogi Berra said, it’s like deja vu all over again. Gridlock seems inevitable, but then gridlock means we evolve incrementally from the status quo for now whereas everything I’ve heard proposed in Dubai seems calibrated for argument and not resolution anyway. Gridlock is far better than a political solution at the moment, because lets face it – there’s nothing that mixes worse than politicians, technology, and an international treaty. Which brings to mind another Yogi Berra quote, “You can observe a lot just by watching”.
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