Stop the UN Takeover of the Internet
As you read this, the 193-member International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a U.N. agency responsible for the regulation of satellite orbits and international long-distance calls, is meeting in Dubai. They are attempting to renegotiate a decades-old version of a telecommunications treaty, which is credited with contributing to the success of the Internet.
A group of Arab countries, supported by Russia and China, introduced a proposal to allow individual countries to directly regulate Internet companies and the domain-name system in their own countries. In essence, they are looking to regulate (read censor) content that is offensive to their national interests.
The proposal is one of more than 1,300 proposals submitted for consideration at the conference. It is backed by Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and several other nations. The leaders of these countries are attempting to curb the power of the web.
During the recent Arab Spring the example of the power of the Internet and social networking sites, such as Facebook, were able to connect the dissidents like no other medium.
Meanwhile, the United States delegation, led by Ambassador Terry Kramer were reported to have vigorously protested the proposal and threatened to withdraw from the conference The ambassador, however, denied that this was the case. He called the reports “speculative,” as well as “inaccurate and unhelpful to the Conference,” in a statement released on Monday.
Nevertheless, due to the backlash from all quarters, the controversial proposals were withdrawn on Monday. The leaked document from World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) had indicated a number of nations, also including the United Arab Emirates, UAE and Saudi Arabia, wanted to have more power over the Web’s laws and infrastructure. Much of the power over the working of the Internet currently lies with US bodies.
As more countries gain more and better Internet access, they have expressed stronger desires to provide input into the future development and growth of the Internet, including whether Internet companies pay telecommunications companies to move content across international borders.
One of the back-door methods of controlling Internet access is the use of fees for users to download content. By forcing companies such as Google to charge consumers for access, the authoritarian regimes believe that they can throttle access and reduce the use of social networking sites. Google has on-going issues with Chinese government attempts to censor their search content.
The poor human rights track records of various authoritarian regimes, as well as their histories of Internet censorship and suppression of dissidents, sparked vigorous opposition from U.S. leaders against movements aimed at international regulation of the Internet.
FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, for example, has been an outspoken opponent of international efforts by Putin and others to disrupt the current multi-stakeholder model of governance over the Internet.
All Americans have a stake in free and unfettered access on the Internet. Any attempt to do so by authoritarian regimes or the UN itself must be resisted.