Doreen Bogdan-Martin of the US today defeated Russia’s Rashid Ismailov by a landslide 139 to 25 in a vote to decide who will become the next secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union, allaying Western concerns about nation-state control and Internet interoperability

Bogdan-Martinwho will become the first woman to head the ITU in its 157-year history, is seen by some observers as the most likely candidate to maintain the ITU’s status as a neutral arbiter of a free and open Internet, in defiance of recent Russian and Chinese maneuvering in the group that would put much more control over the basic functionality of the Internet in the hands of nation states.

Former US FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said before the election that it was essentially a referendum on what direction member states wanted the Internet to take — whether the group should continue to run the Internet in its own interest or accept the kind of government control that other stakeholders have insisted in the past.

“It’s a tentative vote,” Wheeler said. “You might call it a political plebiscite. The Russians and the Chinese signed an agreement to try to make the ITU more of an Internet regulator and have an Internet that is more like the kind of control they have domestically.”

Russia-China IPv6+ plan raises concerns about Internet interoperability

This agreement, which the two governments had billed as “guaranteeing that all [s]countries have equal rights to participate in the governance of the global network,” involves a fundamental redesign of the Internet, originally called “New IP” and then renamed “IPv6+.” According to a 2020 ICANN report, the proposal, largely led by Huawei, introduced a number of features that ICANN called technologically retrograde and potentially harmful to the stability and interoperability of the Internet.

The group also claimed that the partial nature of Huawei’s descriptions of the new standard made it difficult to assess.

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