US leads Western snub of UN telecoms treaty
But the U.S.-led coalition at the talks argued that any U.N. codes sanctioning greater government roles in the Net — even under the framework of state security — could be used as justification for even more controls from Web watchers in places such China, Iran and other nations.
The host United Arab Emirates announced stricter Internet laws last month that outlaw postings such as insulting rulers or calling for protests. The Iranian delegate at the talks said it was time for a more "balanced approach" between the Net's borderless reach and the needs of nations.
There is an outside chance that final text could be rewritten to appease the U.S. and others before the meeting closes Friday. But ITU spokeswoman Sarah Parkes said it "looks like a formality" that the document will stand.
"It's not a crime to talk about Internet inside the ITU," said the group's secretary-general, Hamadoun Toure, before Thursday's decisive session.
Toure insisted the treaty did "not include provisions" on direct Internet oversight by governments. But he noted the growing rifts over how to deal with the Net.
"There is no single world view, but several and these world views need to be accommodated and engaged," he said after the Western rejection.
The U.S. team in Dubai also includes heavy hitters from the tech world such as Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc., which stood up against proposals by European telecoms companies to charge Internet content providers for access to domestic markets around the world.
A statement from Google said the Dubai gathering underscored that "many governments want to increase regulation and censorship of the Internet."
"We stand with the countries who refuse to sign this treaty," said the company statement.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the conference went in the "wrong direction" by opening the door to greater government controls "instead of focusing on promoting innovation and market growth in the telecom space."
Michael Beckerman, president and CEO of the Washington-based industry group The Internet Association, said the efforts for greater government controls could "forever alter" the current framework of the Net.
"The unique nature of the Internet - free from government control and governed by multiple stakeholders - has unleashed unprecedented entrepreneurialism, creativity, innovation, and freedom far beyond imagination," he said in a statement. "Preserving a free Internet for all people is essential to the preservation of political and economic liberty."
Other issues in the accord include calls for more transparency on roaming charges by mobile phone companies, efforts to fight Internet fraud and spam and creation of a worldwide emergency number for mobile phones and other devices.