Nov 14, 2012 (Bangkok Post - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The highly criticised new draft on International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs) governing the internet's role is gaining attention as concerns grow over the potential impact of the treaty.
The ITRs were proposed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN's information and communications (ICT) technology arm.
The ITU will meet next month in Dubai at the World Conference on International Telecommunications to revise the ITRs, a treaty dating from 1988 that established a framework for the interoperability and interconnection of global telecommunications traffic and the functioning of the internet.
The existing ITRs were agreed in 1988 and came into force in 1990. If 25% of 193 ITU member countries reject the new treaty, then it will not be endorsed.
Concerns abound that the regulations could increase internet costs and violate consumers' privacy rights.
Paiboon Amonpinyokeat, the founder and legal counsellor of P&P Law Firm, said the definition of "telecommunications" under the ITRs has been modified, extending its reach to include internet communications.
He said the treaty will likely give full authority to the ITU instead of the existing authorities including the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and other agencies.
Mr Paiboon is urging the Thai authorities to oppose the regulations, especially the new definitions of "telecommunications" and "internet".
"As a developing country, Thailand essentially needs to protect its local e-commerce," he said, adding that each country has the authority to regulate or control the internet under its own laws.
The role of the ITU is merely as a telecommunications adviser, not an internet regulator.
Mr Paiboon said Article 6 of the treaty opens an opportunity for the ITRs to impose considerable service fees on a pay-per-click/bit/byte basis for internet service providers, internet users or other entities.
"This could change the existing 'free use of internet' concept," he said.
"It will also definitely obstruct internet innovation and the free flow of e-information while inducing higher costs and expenses for Thai e-entrepreneurs including internet infrastructure establishment."
Mr Paiboon said if Thailand complies with the treaty, then the country will need to amend legislation such as the Computer Crime Act of 2007, the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Act and the Data Protection Act.
"The Thai government should cooperate with Asia-Pacific members and support the US policy of opposing the treaty," he said.
As much as 80% of e-commerce traffic goes through the US.
Mr Paiboon suggested the authorities consider adopting only Articles 5 and 7 of the treaty covering priority of emergency communications and dissemination of illegal content.
Tatchapol Poshyanonda, the country manager at Cisco Systems (Thailand), a leading network equipment maker, warned the treaty would threaten internet freedom and global economic development.
"We're a developing country where internet and broadband infrastructure have direct relevance to the country's economic growth," he said.
The government should understand the existing internet landscape and predict the future internet, he added.
Manoo Ordeedolchest, former chairman of the Association of Thai Computer Industry, echoed the view that telecommunications and the internet involve different technologies and operate under different models.
Telecom networks are based on the circuit-switching paradigm in which the route is a predetermined connecting path from sender to destination.
By comparison, the internet is based on a packet-switching model whereby each packet finds its own way across the network and there is no predetermined route because routers can send packets along the path of least resistance.
Mr Manoo said the market should be the sole director of the fate of the internet, with no need for any controlling regulatory body.
Yongyos Protpakorn, a director of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said it strongly disagrees with the new draft treaty, as it will raise operating costs and affect internet users.
Internet activist Sarinee Achavanuntakul said the treaty will affect people's right to privacy when processing personal data and hamper freedom of expression.
Content providers will also have to pay more, forcing global content firms to limit their service access, she said.
Chaiyan Peungkiatpairote, the ICT permanent secretary, said the government strongly disagrees with the ITU and will not accept the charges.
The ICT Ministry recently joined with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission in setting up a panel to prepare for the upcoming meeting in Dubai.
Mr Chaiyan said the ministry welcomes public opinion.
People can voice their opinions on the treaty at firstname.lastname@example.org and http://wcit12.mict.go.th.
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