Banner WTPF 2009

United States
Statement by Mr. Richard Beaird, Acting United States Coordinator, International Communications and Information Policy, United States Department of State


Mr. Chairman, Secretary-General, elected officials, Excellencies, distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentleman, it is a great pleasure for my delegation to come to one of the most historical and beautiful cities of the world, Lisbon. We are at the western most point of Europe -- we are also at the gateway to Africa, India, the Far East, and to the Western Hemisphere – the names of Henry the Navigator , Vasco Da Gama, and Pedro Alvares Cabral, among others, recall the history of this great country and its links to all parts of the world. The world of the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries was large, and lands and cultures were distant, and often defying of understanding.

The world today is different – President Obama speaking recently in Strasbourg said that “we’ve arrived at a moment where each nation and every citizen must choose at last how we respond to a world that has grown smaller and more connected than at any time in its existence.” He went on to speak of our age when he said that “we’ve known for a long time that the revolutions in communications and technology that took place in the 20th century would help hold out enormous promise for the 21st century, the promise of broader prosperity and mobility, of new breakthroughs and discoveries that could help us lead richer and fuller lives.”

We are in Lisbon to exchange views and information on many of the great issues facing us today arising from communications and technology and their impact on convergence, next-generation networks and the Internet, and emerging telecommunications policy and regulatory issues. The Informal Group of Experts has given us much to consider in the six opinions that they have offered to the World Telecommunication Policy Forum.

With respect to Internet Public Policy, the Experts spoke of the roles and responsibilities that all governments have to ensure the “stability, security and continuity of the Internet.” Experts also spoke of the support for the ITU “according to its mandate to continue to study certain topics” that are vital to the Internet, including “the multilingual Internet and diversity of participation in the Internet.”

Concerning The Implications of the Advent of Next-Generation Networks (NGNs) and Advanced Broadband Access, - Experts called upon ITU Member States and Sector Members “to consider the introduction and deployment of IP-based NGNs, relevant to their national needs and circumstances.” In so doing, Experts emphasized the importance of competition, fostering innovation, open access models, and the “development of public -services that leverage broadband access.”

Concerning ICT and the Environment, Experts underscored one of the greatest global challenges of climate change, environment, and food distribution. The Opinion emphasizes the important ongoing work within the ITU on these subjects and calls upon all ITU Member States and Sector Members to continue to support this work. Lastly, the need for international cooperation and collaboration is underscored when the Experts asked the Secretary-General, within the mandate of the ITU, to reach-out to other UN bodies “for the effective addressing of climate change.”

With respect to Collaborative Strategies for Creating Confidence and Security in the Use of ICT’s , the International Group of Experts called upon the ITU “to promote more efficient approaches for improving security and risk management processes through Recommendations and other mechanisms by building upon the work achieved by ITU in the development of best practices and standards for cybersecurity.” The Opinion also invited Member States “consistent with freedom of expression, to share the understanding that distribution of illegal and harmful content on the Internet is a global issue, and that global cooperation and collaboration are required to solve the issue.”

Concerning Capacity Builidng in Support of the Adoption of Ipv6, Experts considered “IP addresses are fundamental resources that are essential for the future development of telecommunication/information and communication technologies, IP-based networks, and for the the global economy.” The Experts also considered that “among the most important challenges for all countries will be an environment in which Ipv4 and Ipv6 co-exist.” To that end, the Opinion invited the ITU, in close consultation with relevant interested parties, “to review the circumstances and provide information on options to facilitate the co-existence between Ipv4 and Ipv6.”

With respect to The International Telecommunication Regulations, the Opinion put forth the list, compiled by the Chairman of the ITR Expert Group , of telecommunications policy and regulatory issues that “may be considered to be new and emerging issues.”

The “revolutions in communications and technology” that President Obama referenced have brought new forms of global communication. The telephone brought us point-to-point communication to the far corners of the world and that fact transformed our previous understanding of what it means to communicate. However, in 1994, the Maitland Commission lamented that ½ of the world’s population had yet to make a simple phone call. We still need to achieve the promise of universal access envisioned by the Commission. But today we are in a different place entirely – it is possible that a person somewhere in the world may have sent a SMS or text message, uploaded a photo, or made a new friend by being a part of a social utility like the Facebook global community – all using a mobile device. Indeed, if the Facebook community was a nation, its nearly 200 million participants would make it the fifth largest country in the world.

The universal aspect of today’s communications capabilities makes the world seem smaller than ever before. The opportunities and challenges presented by information and communications technology and the Internet are now shared globally. Some of the fastest growing websites are those referred to as “social utilities” that bring people together not only in local communities but around the world. The use of search engines continues to grow exponentially around the world bringing to our citizens information that could not be imagined a mere decade ago. We are only beginning to understand these still new media of communications and information-sharing. However, we understand that these developments have the potential to change societies and economies .

The “revolutions in communications and technology” that President Obama saw as helping to “hold out enormous promise for the 21st century” can be said to extend to all of our countries. But to realize this potential, we believe, each of us must adopt a policy approach to information and communications technologies, the Internet and other innovations that facilitates the emergence of an environment that will encourage innovation, free speech, and foster commercial opportunities.

We will have an opportunity at this World Telecommunications Policy Forum to share information and experiences on how each of our countries and private sectors are advancing the promises of the communications and technology revolutions. The United States is laying the foundation for moving our country toward an environment that fosters technological innovation, that will create new jobs, improve the environment, help solve our energy crisis, increase productivity, reduce health care costs, fuel economic growth, and to extend opportunities to a new generation of Americans. We are creating this environment by doing the following:

  • Through a national broadband strategy, connect the country with ubiquitous and accessible broadband networks that reach into every neighborhood and household, every school and library, and every hospital.
  • Promote the use of global, market-driven, voluntary consensus standards that are developed in an open and transparent process.
  • Maximize government use of innovative technologies.
  • Protect the openness of the Internet.
  • Protect our cyber networks.
  • Collaborate with stakeholders around the globe to develop a policy environment that encourages the continued growth and expansion of the Internet.

We all have an interest in an environment that leads to innovation, particularly as we face the current challenges of the global economic crisis. It is only in such an environment that we can establish the sustainable job creation, economic growth, and entrepreneurship that lead to the full benefits of a thriving economy.

The six Opinions that have been brought to us by the Informal Group of Experts offer us much to consider. They range widely across many of the pressing issues facing us today. The WTPF presents us with an opportunity – using the Opinions as our foundation – to share information and experiences. We should seize this opportunity, and by so doing mark the World Telecommunications Policy Forum in Lisbon as a Forum that will be always remembered for its collegiality, for its wisdom, and for its commitment to using communications and information technology to fulfill, in the words of President Obama, “the promise of broader prosperity and mobility, of new breakthroughs and discoveries that could help us lead richer and fuller lives.

Thank you.