Recognizing WSIS Impacts

Unless it acknowledges key characteristics of the Internet, the World Summit on the Information Society will easily undermine it

Streamlined Version of Opinion

Opinion on Recognizing the Internet in the Information Society

The fifth World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum,


The outcomes of the two phases of the World Summit on the Information Society rarely use the term “Internet,” almost exclusively using the term in relation to Internet Governance;

In particular: (Click for WSIS outcome document references to the Internet)

The remaining portions of the WSIS outcome documents are articulated in relation to the broader term “ICTs.” This includes the bulk of: the Geneva Declaration’s presentation of the common vision of the Information Society and its key principles; the Geneva Plan of Action’s presentation of the roles of stakeholders, objectives, goals and targets, action lines, priorities and strategies for development, and performance measures; the affirmations in the Tunis Commitment; and the Tunis Agenda’s provisions addressing financing of development, numerous aspects of Internet governance, and performance and follow up in fulfilling the Agenda;

further observing

[. . .]

That Council Decision 562 and Resolutions 101, 102 and 133 present a range of issues for discussion using a variety of terms besides Internet, including Telecommunications/ICTs, IP-based Networks, Next Generation Networks (NGNs), future networks, future Internet, etc.;

In particular: (Click for references to “Telecommunications/ICTs,” “IP-based Networks,” and “Next-Generation Networks” in the WTPF framing documents)

calling attention to the fact

that these terms in the WSIS outcome documents and the Resolutions framing the fifth World Telecommunications/ICT Policy Forum, may designate broader categories or more specialized technical solutions than are represented by the Internet platform and the term “Internet”;


that the Internet is a key concern of the World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum;

In particular:

Council Decision 562 notes that international Internet-related public policy matters is a topic of high current interest to ITU Member States and Sector Members;

(Click for further citations of the Internet as a key concern of the WTPF in Resolutions 101 and 102)


that both public policy decisions and particular technical systems deployed under the development programs of the Information Society have the potential to detract from the capabilities brought by the Internet platform;

recognizing with special concern

that every part of the Geneva Action Plan of the WSIS has the potential to affect the Internet unless the key characteristics of the Internet are recognized;

In particular:

  • An intergovernmental body can recast the nature of the Internet platform unless we recognize and secure its unique strengths and character; and conversely, the kind of standards-making that produced the Internet is more difficult to conduct in intergovernmental fora.
  • National e-strategies may also affect the Internet, including impacting inclusivity in the sense of end user and independent provider empowerment made possible by the Internet
  • Promotion of public domain information, accessibility for all, use of technology for governance, all can be impacted deleteriously without addressing the Internet as a means of interoperating between diverse providers and end users
  • Education and capacity building for different groups and communities, including distance learning, can be impacted if we do not assure that impacts on the Internet can be readily identified
  • Measures to build trust and confidence can also easily recast the nature of the platform if its nature is not addressed clearly
  • The establishing of enabling environments can affect the ability for independent, autonomous networks to readily interoperate by means of the Internet protocols unless the nature of the Internet is acknowledged clearly
  • The ability to empower sustainable development and support diverse applications for public administration, business and numerous areas of life that may be benefited by the Information Society can be affected if the nature of the platform made possible by the Internet protocols is not acknowledged clearly
  • Linguistic and cultural diversity express issues of empowerment and autonomy that are implicated whenever the power of local communities is implicated in policies and practices that may affect the Internet
  • The implications for freedom of speech and the media are easy to recognize as a direct reflection of the Internet as a communications platform, but these concerns may also be affected in special ways that derive from the nature of intergovernmental forums, policies and processes, which may be more readily identified when key characteristics of the Internet are acknowledged.
  • Impacts of Information Society activities on ethical questions and common values can more readily be articulated on the basis of express principles that reflect the key characteristics of the Internet
  • Initiatives that build on international and regional cooperation, and the capacity for cooperation itself, may be affected if initiatives proceed without recognizing the nature of the Internet platform;


the need to assure that both the governance and development contexts can readily recognize these impacts in order to assure the advantages that the Internet brings to the Information Society can be extended to all, and are not overlooked without recognizing the tradeoffs that may be brought by various other technological solutions, which for their part may have their own advantages;


that according to Resolution 2, the purpose of the World Telecommunications Policy Forum is to provide a venue for exchanging views and information and create a shared vision among policy-makers worldwide on issues arising from the emergence of new technologies, and to enable the recognition and understanding of national policies and regulations in order to develop global markets that can support harmonious telecommunications;

that Resolution 2 also cites the purposes of the ITU as including promoting the adoption of a broader approach to telecommunications/ICTs issues in the global information economy and society, and promoting the extending of the benefits of new technologies to all;


that governments participating in inter-governmental decisionmaking and enhanced cooperation may choose to establish policies that may affect key characteristics of the Internet;

that individual governments seeking to establish telecommunications/ICT policies may seek to allow for national policies that diverge from the key characteristics of the Internet;

that policy decisions contributing to the enabling environment for fostering telecommunications/ICT development, and technical aspects of telecommunications/ICTs deployed in development programs, may affect key characteristics of the Internet;

that governments seeking to establish national or international telecommunications policies that may affect key characteristics of the Internet, may wish to incorporate distinct provisions for Internet connectivity fulfilling its key characteristics;

that enhanced cooperation in inter-governmental policymaking may be facilitated by providing for these modalities;

is of the opinion that

processes must be set up wherein key characteristics of the Internet can be articulated, whereby its unique strengths can be recognized and thereby allowing developments that may affect its special nature and strengths to be readily recognized;


the following points as a starting point for principles that enable the Internet and its advantages to be recognized and distinguished from other terms that may designate technical concepts that are broader or more specialized in nature than the Internet platform:

  • that it is defined in terms of principles of interoperation between networks,
  • that the resulting platform is a general purpose platform,
  • that it is available as a general purpose platform to end users, and
  • that it enables general purpose connectivity directly between end users throughout the globe (or beyond), to all other networks that interoperate on the same terms.

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