The DCIA commends the US House Energy & Commerce Committee’s leadership and bipartisan approval this week of a resolution opposing the United Nations’ and its International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) attempt to assert and impose unprecedented governmental regulation over the Internet.
The Internet’ss current multi-stakeholder governance model fosters continuing investment and innovation absent heavy-handed regulatory controls.
Beyond the substantial growth that the Internet and related distributed computing technologies are contributing to the global economy, unprecedented advances in political freedom can also be attributed to the current model.
Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack’s leadership of this initiative has been particularly laudable: “In many ways, we’re facing a referendum on the future of the Internet. A vote for my resolution is a vote to keep the Internet free from government control and to prevent giving the UN unprecedented power over Web content and infrastructure. That’s the quickest way for the Internet to one day become a wasteland of unfilled hopes, dreams, and opportunities.”
We strongly urge the timely support of this resolution by the full US House of Representatives and similar actions by other responsible legislative bodies around the world in advance of the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai with 190 nations expected to participate this December.
At WCIT, the International Telecommunications Regulations, comprising an international treaty developed nearly 25 years ago to deal with global telephone and telegraph systems at the time, will be opened for revisions.
And while any amended treaty would only be binding in the US if ratified by the Senate, the implications of currently proposed changes, if adopted elsewhere around the world, would have profoundly damaging effects on the operation of the Internet everywhere.
The secret drafting of ITU proposals in preparation for WCIT has been widely and rightly criticized by public interest groups for a serious lack of transparency. But our concerns go deeper than that.
If the ITU is successful in taking power over the Internet with the proposed amendments, such technologically valuable activities as the current flexibility of Internet-connected devices to perform as both clients and servers would be jeopardized.
Certain communications among devices would be hampered based on jurisdictional considerations and governmental security intervention measures, including repressive surveillance of Internet users and sanctioned censorship of the Internet.
Eli Dourado, a researcher at George Mason University, articulated this aspect of the looming battle well:
"It’s really one between Internet users worldwide and their governments. Who benefits from increased ITU oversight of the Internet? Certainly not ordinary users in foreign countries, who would then be censored and spied upon by their governments with full international approval. The winners would be autocratic regimes, not their subjects."
In addition, a sending-party tax to be paid by content providers, would upend longstanding principles of Internet architecture and take us back to the days of the extortionary taxes that were once imposed on long-distance phone-calls. Some of the most promising cloud-based content delivery applications and systems would be made economically unfeasible.
The ongoing and smoothly proceeding transition to IPv6 would come to a grinding halt.
We join the Internet Society, representing engineering groups that develop and maintain core Internet technologies, in objecting to these proposals on principle and as a practical matter.
Independent organizations including the Society, as well as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and the Worldwide Web Consortium, already deal much more effectively than the ITU possibly could with such fundamental tasks as network and domain name registrations, allowing the Internet to develop and evolve with relatively fast responses to changes in technology, business practices, and consumer behavior.
We also agree with Philip Verveer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and US Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, who said, “It is important that when we have values, as we do in the area of free speech and the free flow of information, that we do everything that we can to articulate and sustain those values.”
And the negative economic impacts of the proposed treaty changes on expansion of Internet-based services as well as job creation would be devastating.
Verveer called the proposals unworkable and said they would have unintended consequences that would seriously harm the Internet. We concur, and urge DCINFO readers everywhere to join us in their opposition. Share wisely, and take care.