UPDATE: New Zealand refused to sign a treaty that would have given the United Nations' control of much of the internet, ICT Amy Adams confirmed this afternoon.
Many of the proposals put forward in the treaty, including stronger state control of the internet, and control of content, spam, and cyber security, would have undermined the non-profit, independent agenciest that administer the interent today.
“The government considers that the proposed changes are unhelpful, unwarranted, and represent a significant threat to innovation and free and open debate that the internet fosters,” Ms Adams says.
89 countries say they will sign the treaty, 55 will not. See the full list here.
Dec 14 / EARLIER: Later this afternoon, ICT Minister Amy Adams will confirm that New Zealand has refused to sign a new treaty that would give the UN control of the internet.
The United States, Britain and Canada also refused to sign a draft overnight at an International Telecommunications Union conference in Dubai, described as "fractious."
The ITU is a UN agency that controls telecommunications industry standards. It's members include most nations, plus most big phone companies.
Opponents of its proposed treaty say the internet is better off under the non-profit agencies that control it today, which include the global ICANN, and local adminstrators such as InternetNZ. Although set up by the US government, ICANN operates independently and represents a broad range of interests.
Ms Adams' would not comment on NZ's position ahead of her formal statement later today, but an insider told NBR her opposition to UN control "has not changed."
Labour ICT Minister Clare Curran supports the government's stance.
Earlier, InternetNZ CEO Vikram Kumar told NBR, "If governments had controlled the internet for the past 20 years it would be much smaller than today."
The InternetNZ boss sees potential economic, censorship and human rights threats if control of the internet is taken away from independent non-profits.
Should UN take control of internet? NZ govt takes stand
Nov 19: New Zealand will vote against a move by the United Nations to take control of the internet.
Next month, the 193 member countries of the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and its 700 academic and private industry members (many of them phone companies) will met in Dubai for the World Conference on International Telecommunications – dubbed “ the most important conference you’ve never heard of.”
The UN body is pushing for an international telecommunications treaty to be extended to cover the internet.
The internet was developed, if not by Al Gore personally, then the US government – which in turn handed control to a series of non-profits including the US-based global administrator ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and local operations like InternetNZ.
Speaking at InternetNZ's Nethui South in Dunedin on Friday, ICT Minister Amy Adams revealed NZ's position on the issue for the first time: it wants internet control to stay with non-profits. "They allow stakeholders from business, government, academia and the wider internet community to have crucial input into how the internet is managed, and we see it as flexible enough to cope with the changes in technology,” Ms Adams told the conference."
The current setup is flexible enough to cope with technology changes, Ms Adams said.
"InternetNZ warmly welcomes the ICT Minister's announcement that the NZ government will vote to keep the Internet out of the ambit of the ITU. Other governments respect and take notice of the New Zealand position on Internet issues so this is an excellent example of that leadership and insight," Internet NZ CEO Vikram Kumar told NBR.
If governments had controlled the internet for the past 20 years it would be much smaller than today, he said.
“The moment it becomes treaty-based and government-to-government, with no voice of the community and only the largest corporates getting behind [the] closed doors and making treaty decisions, we believe the openness and innovation of the internet will die.”
In the global internet community, New Zealand is seen a a pragmatic, non-ideological player that punches above its weight.
"There are many countries that would look at New Zealand’s vote and use it as a lead for their own understanding of the issues," Mr Kumar said.
"New Zealand has much to gain from the Internet. The ITU is simply the wrong body taking the wrong approach which threatens an open Internet driving global innovation and development. Acting at the behest of governments that want to control the Internet, the ITU needs to step back and retain its focus on areas where it has provided significant value in the past."
Some fear governement control of global internet adminstration, via the ITU, would mean heavy-handed regulation that would smother regulation, and greater risk of censorship.
Others see it as a move by traditional phone companies - who see companies like Google and Microsoft (owner of Skype) freeloading on their networks - to promote some kind of internet tax, or charges on specific types of data.