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Why the US, Other Countries Refused to Sign Internet Treaty

Delegates from around the world recently agreed on a new treaty on telecommunications and the Internet. The agreement came at the World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai. But, the United States and more than 50 other countries have refused to sign the treaty. They are calling it a threat to Internet freedom.

This was the first time that the International Telecommunication Regulations have been amended in more than 20 years. Back then, the Internet as we know it did not exist. Delegates at the conference in Dubai were divided over how the Internet should be governed.

Countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and Iran are concerned that the Internet's naming system is governed by a non-profit group which operates from the United States. That organization is called ICANN -- the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

The discussions at the conference took place during two weeks of tense and sometimes heated debate among the delegates. Officials reported receiving more than 1200 proposals from members of the International Telecommunication Union.

The group's Secretary General, Hamadoun Toure, called the signing of the treaty, a "momentous occasion." He also expressed regret that some governments chose not to sign the agreement. Hamadoun Toure said he hoped the ITU would continue to work with those countries.

Some observers say division over the treaty remains so strong that it is unlikely to go into effect in 2015 as planned. They say changes may be necessary to get wider agreement among delegates.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Alex Villarreal. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 31Dec2012)