FCC Chair Assails Efforts to Include Cybersecurity Measures in Telecom Treaty

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By Paul Barbagallo  

Efforts to include cybersecurity regulations in a new international telecommunications treaty due to be negotiated next month are “misplaced” and “ultimately counterproductive,” said Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski.

In a speech delivered during the CENTCOM (U.S. Central Command) Conference Nov. 15, Genachowski echoed the remarks of U.S. officials that the current “multistakeholder” process is better suited to address cybersecurity and related issues than top-down international regulations. CENTCOM is one of 10 combatant commands in the U.S. military.

Genachowski noted that three of those so-called multistakeholder groups, the Internet Engineering Task Force; the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, an industry standards-setting body known as the 3GPP; and the FCC's own Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council are already actively developing standards for network and device security.

“International regulations are simply too broad, too inflexible, and too slow to change to effectively address cybersecurity issues,” Genachowski said. “And any attempt to draft a one-size-fits-all text could easily do more harm than good.”

Next month, the United States will leave for Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to participate in the World Conference on International Telecommunications, during which a U.N. treaty known as the International Telecommunications Regulations, will be amended and updated.

The treaty was written in 1988, when the internet was in its infancy.

Both Genachowski and U.S. industry officials have voiced strong concerns in recent months about proposals to place the internet under decades-old telecommunication regulations, imperiling its innovative capacity and possibly leading to tighter censorship and government control.

“The U.S. supports, and will work for, continued growth and expansion of a vibrant, competitive international communications and Internet sector,” Genachowski said. “This will contribute to more innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth, creating opportunity all over the world. This is why we remain concerned about ongoing discussions about cybersecurity in the context of WCIT. Cyber threats are a growing issues, but one that is being addressed in a variety of multi-stakeholder [forums].”