At first there was barely a whisper that an international effort had been undertaken to gain more control of the Internet. But now, thanks to the free exchange of information over the Internet, that whisper has become a much louder voice, spurring many to push back against a global attempt to take over and regulate various aspects of Internet operations, such as assignment of domain names and privacy controls. A meeting to discuss the preliminaries of renegotiating a 1988 treaty was held by the United Nations' International Telecommunication Union (ITU) February 27-29, 2012, in Geneva, Switzerland.The next stop is a World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai on December 3-14, 2012, where it is feared that a UN takeover of the Internet will be authorized.
The International Telecommunication Union is a specialized arm of the UN that deals with all communication technologies; it has 193 member countries. The 1988 treaty was originally titled as International Telecommunication Regulations, or ITRs. The problematic portion of that 1988 treaty, for Internet freedom lovers, is Art. 9.1b which deals with cyber security and infrastructure protections. The section obligates countries to "avoid technical harm to the operation of the telecommunication facilities of third countries" for internets spanning national boundaries. According to the ITU, "Such obligations potentially include setting and adopting standards, monitoring traffic flows, cooperation among parties, establishing implementing national laws, and instituting enforcement mechanisms."
Robert McDowell, a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, warns that Brazil, Russia, India, and China are trying to seize the moment to place cybersecurity and data privacy under United Nations control. He further warns that this would be a dangerous step toward severe censorship and has the potential to destroy Web innovation and a part of our economy. McDowell believes some of these countries’ motivation for regulation includes the promise of money for state-owned phone companies that would be able to charge a fee on a “per-click basis for certain websites.”
In an interview at CPAC (video embedded below), McDowell clearly iterated that what is happening now is a renegotiation of the 1988 treaty that would then need only a simple majority vote at the Dubai meeting this December to implement a UN takeover of the Internet. The ITU and UN deny there are “any proposals on the table that would impact access to or freedom of the Internet,” said one ITU official. But one report lists the goal of the UN to “internationally manage” the Internet. That would include subsuming “under intergovernmental control many functions.... which establish the engineering and technical standards that allow the Internet to work,” reports the Business Spectator.
The facts are: The UN’s ITU is working on renegotiating the 1988 ITR treaty. The conference set for Dubai in December of 2012 will most likely see these new UN “harmonizations” and “standards” for the Internet adopted by a simple majority vote of the 193 member nations of the ITU. The question is: Could these new provisions be adopted as an amendment and be automatically implemented in the countries of the signatories of the original treaty? Many believe this to be the case. If so, national sovereignty for those nations voting against a UN takeover of the Internet would suffer another gigantic hit. The United States does not have a veto in the ITU assembly.
No one government or international group of governments should appoint themselves as overseers, controllers, or regulators of any aspect of the Internet. A free and bottom-up, open approach has proven to be best for the Internet — best for innovation, for the economy, and for the free flow of information.
Contact your Representative and Senators immediately regarding this UN threat to Internet freedom. Tell them to ignore the toothless and even partially wrongheaded "sense of the House of Representatives" resolution against UN control over the Internet, H. Res. 57, and instead wield their legislative powers under the Constitution to protect the Internet from any form of takeover by the United Nations' International Telecommunication Union.