The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) taking place in Dubai on 3–14 December does not on the face of it seem an event calculated to set pulses racing. However, the meeting, convened by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), will undertake the first review since 1988 of telecommunications regulations. It has sparked fears that the ITU is seeking to acquire greater powers to regulate the Internet.
The ITU, a specialised agency of the United Nations, is one of the oldest and largest intergovernmental organisations in existence. It is also one of the least publicly visible. Tasked with promoting the improvement and rational use of telecommunications, its day-to-day activities include managing the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits, avoiding and eliminating harmful interference, standardising the ever-growing range of global telecommunications, and developing access to information communications technologies so that emerging economies can 'bridge the digital divide'.