Committed to connecting the world

Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré 

EIF Breakfast Debate

 Preparatory Meeting for the Fifth World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF)

24 April 2013, Brussels, Belgium
Good morning to you all.

It is a great pleasure to be able to join you here in Brussels this morning for this EIF Breakfast Debate.

We are now less than three weeks away from the start of the fifth World Telecommunication Policy Forum, WTPF-13, which is taking place in Geneva from 14 to 16 May – an event I am personally very much looking forward to.

ITU has successfully been an influential and neutral global convener throughout our long history, and we are firm believers that only open, transparent and inclusive processes will lead the way towards successful policy making.

This is why we continue to act as a bridge builder, promoting a multi-stakeholder approach to dealing with telecommunications and ICTs.

WTPF-13 provides a global forum for our members to examine international Internet-related public policy matters, at their request – and let me take this opportunity to stress here that WTPF is a forum, not a treaty-making conference.

The WTPF exists precisely so we can have a global debate on key issues in the world of ICTs. WTPF-13 is therefore a unique opportunity to air the issues as they are seen among fellow experts, and the Forum will enable all stakeholders to contribute their unique perspective to the discussions and help the global community chart a common course forward.

The preparatory process towards WTPF-13 has been open and inclusive. It was led by an informal expert group that was open to all stakeholders, irrespective of whether or not they were members of ITU.

The multi-stakeholder expert group concluded its third and final meeting in February, and approved a number of draft Opinions, by consensus, for further discussion at the Policy Forum next month.

These include:

  • Promoting Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) as a long term solution to advance connectivity;
  • Fostering an enabling environment for the greater growth and development of broadband connectivity;
  • Supporting multi-stakeholderism in Internet governance;
  • Supporting operationalizing the enhanced cooperation process;
  • Supporting capacity building for the deployment of IPv6; and
  • Supporting IPv6 adoption and the transition from IPv4.

These opinions cover a wide range of Internet-related global public policy issues of significant relevance in today’s world – and I am confident that they will serve as a good basis for fruitful high-level discussions at WTPF-13.

The views contained in the opinions address some of the key policy issues arising from today's fast changing information and communication technology environment in a constructive and forward-looking manner – which is precisely the intended purpose the WTPF.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me go into a little more detail concerning some of the salient points in the draft opinions.

  • The first draft opinion concerns Internet Exchange Points, IXPs, and invites Member States and Sector Members to work together to promote the further development and expansion of networks; to enable the emergence of Internet Exchange Points; and to promote public policies aimed at permitting Internet network operators to interconnect through IXPs.
  • The second draft opinion concerns the fostering of an enabling environment for the greater growth of broadband, and invites Member States to promote widespread affordable access and review their regulatory frameworks.

This is particularly important, given that we all know that broadband is key to social and economic progress in the 21st century, and that greatly increased investment is therefore needed here.

  • The third draft opinion concerns the deployment of IPv6, and invites Member States to promote, facilitate and support the fastest possible adoption and migration to IPv6, and Sector Members to offer their services via IPv6 as quickly as possible.

ITU, through its Standardization and Development sectors, has been actively working with Member States in this area, through collaboration with Regional Internet Registries, regional and national academic institutions, the private sector, and other stakeholders.

  • The fourth draft opinion concerns the migration from IPv4 to IPv6, and stresses the urgency of this issue, as well as the importance of making optimal use of IPv4 addresses.
  • The fifth draft opinion concerns supporting multi-stakeholderism in Internet Governance, and invites Member States and other stakeholders to ensure that the governance of the Internet is a multi-stakeholder process enabling all parties to continue to benefit from the Internet, and to focus on how in particular the participation of developing country stakeholders can be assured.

This opinion reiterates what I have been saying for some time – that the ITU has been multi-stakeholder from its inception, and that it was the success of the multi-stakeholder approach within ITU that inspired the multi-stakeholder principles agreed at the ITU-led World Summit on the Information Society, WSIS.

Through its Plenipotentiary Resolutions, the ITU membership recognizes the multi-stakeholder governance model, based on WSIS principles, as the framework for global Internet governance.

  • Finally, the sixth draft opinion concerns supporting the operationalization of the enhanced cooperation process, recognizing that international cooperation and support is essential for bringing the benefits of the Internet to all the peoples of the world, in particular in developing and least developed countries, and reaffirming the need for enhanced cooperation to enable governments to develop international Internet-related public policy in consultation with all stakeholders.

As you will know, Europe has been very active throughout the preparatory process for WTPF-13, with the Chair of the Informal Expert Group, Petko Kantchev from Bulgaria, leading the group with great ability, and the European private sector and civil society both being well-represented.

In addition, the panelists here today – the European Commission, BT, and ICANN – were all part of the informal expert group.

We are confident that Europe will continue to play a very constructive role in the discussions at the Forum – and after wide consultation, I have decided to propose the Minister from The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ivo Ivanoski, to chair WTPF-13. Given his clear commitment to the future of the global information society, I am confident that he will guide the Forum to a successful outcome.

Distinguished colleagues,

On 13 May, the day before WTPF begins, we will be hosting a high-level Strategic Dialogue to discuss the importance of investment in infrastructure and the changing nature of ICT regulation.

The focus will be on broadband, and we have planned two sessions to discuss different facets of this issue.

  • The first session, ‘Building out Broadband’, will explore the broadband revolution and will examine the role of broadband as critical infrastructure in the modern global economy. One of the key questions which will be explored in this session will be: Is broadband Internet access today a basic need, a public utility, a fundamental right or a privilege?
  • The second session, ‘Broadband Driving Development’, will consider the benefits of broadband for accelerating development, and will consider the applications of broadband infrastructure and services for improving people’s lives and accelerating the achievement of the MDGs.

One of the crucial challenges facing the ICT sector is the surging growth of data, which is putting unprecedented pressure on existing telecom networks.

Governments and industry must therefore work together to ensure that emerging business models ensure sufficient return on investments made on network upgrades.

The question, then, is who pays for what?

Whatever your view, one thing is for certain: this is a question worth asking, and a question that requires answering.

It is critical for all of us that the right balance should be reached.

Some say the market will fix this; others are calling for a larger role for regulators to set a fair playing field – and this is exactly the kind of debate we will be having at the forthcoming Global Symposium for Regulators in Poland in July, when we will bring together regulators and industry leaders from around the world to discuss the issues.

In closing, let me say once again how grateful I am for this opportunity to join you this morning, and I look forward very much to seeing many of you at WTPF-13 in three weeks’ time.

Thank you.