In December 2012, ITU convened its first World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) to review and revise the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs). These regulations, which are a treaty that complements the ITU Constitution and Convention, establish general principles designed to facilitate international interconnection and interoperability of information and communication services, as well as ensuring their efficiency and widespread public availability. Prior to WCIT-12, the ITRs were last negotiated in 1988 at the World Administrative Telegraph and Telephone Conference (WATTC-88) in Melbourne, Australia.
Many tough issues provoked considerable debate during the conference, including network security, unsolicited bulk content such as spam email, the definition of entities providing services under the terms of the treaty, the principle of non-discriminatory access of countries to each other’s networks, and whether or not to include language on freedom of expression in the Preamble text of the treaty. There was need for much compromise, and discussions often continued until late into the night.
The revised version of the ITRs that was finally signed by 89 countries on 14 December 2012 included new provisions on asserting all people’s right to freedom of expression over ICT networks, on promoting accessibility to persons with disabilities, on increasing transparency in the prices set for mobile roaming, and on improving the energy efficiency of ICT networks and helping combat e-waste. A new Resolution placed special emphasis on assisting land-locked developing nations and small island developing states and another Resolution called for the creation of a single, globally harmonized number for access to emergency services.
The new ITRs will enter into force on 1 January 2015.