FCC to Congress: U.N.'s ITU Internet plans 'must be stopped'

FCC to Congress: U.N.'s ITU Internet plans 'must be stopped'

Summary: Today's testimony from FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell to Congress explicitly reveals that the free and open Internet is under attack by the ITU.


Today, U.S. Federal Communications Commissioner Robert McDowell will testify to Congress in a joint U.S. House subcommittee hearing on international Internet governance, that the free and open Internet is under attack — and inaction is not an option.

The FCC Commissioner ominously warned Congress that what happened at WCIT-12 "ended the era of an international consensus to keep inter-governmental hands off of the Internet in dramatic fashion."

The WCIT-12 summit was where the U.N.'s telecommunications arm, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), facilitated changes to a global telecommunications treaty. The U.N. debacle prompted a widespread online outrage, an unprecedented unanimous U.S. House of Representatives vote in opposition, and a collective refusal from 55 member states to sign the ITU's treaty.

But according to McDowell's testimony, serious damage has still been done to the free and open Internet as a result. 

"The bottom line," McDowell said, "is 89 countries have given the ITU jurisdiction over the Internet’s operations and content."


McDowell stated in no uncertain terms that the U.S. must take action to stop the U.N. agency from gaining further governance power over the Internet as it intends to do at the ITU's upcoming 2014 plenipotentiary meeting. He says that, "Internet freedom's foes around the globe are working hard to exploit a treaty negotiation that dwarfs the importance of the WCIT by orders of magnitude."

In a rarely seen show of harshly-written rhetoric, McDowell will also demonstrate that the U.N.'s harmful designs on the Internet are at least a decade old, and its agenda is comprised almost entirely of lies and deceit.

McDowell's astonishingly blunt statements (prepared and published in "Fighting for Internet Freedom: Dubai and Beyond") outlined the ITU's frighteningly successful agenda to take control of the Internet by redefining telecommunications treaties in direct benefit to ITU bedfellows not limited to China, Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

WCIT-12 set stage to dismantle Internet freedom

Today's "Fighting for Internet Freedom" hearing and webcast will be held jointly with the Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade, along with the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.

After representative testimony from witnesses such as the FCC, U.S. Department of State, and the Internet Society, the subcommittees are to consider legislation to affirm that it is the policy of the United States to promote a global Internet free from government control.

'U.S. opposition is not enough'

McDowell praised the U.S. decision not to sign onto ITU's WCIT-12 Dubai treaty changes at the December summit, but plainly said that this is not enough—especially, he said, with what the ITU has planned next.

But McDowell testified that anyone—including Congress—who thinks the U.S. dissent by refusing to sign the WCIT-12 treaty stopped the ITU from attaining dangerous Internet governance powers is being misled:

Although the U.S. was ultimately joined by 54 other countries in opposition to the new treaty language, that figure is misleading.

As a result of an 89-55 vote, the ITU now has unprecedented authority over the economics and content of key aspects of the Internet.

Specifically, the explicit terms of the new treaty language give the ITU policing powers over “SPAM,” and attempt to legitimize under international law foreign government inspections of the content of Internet communications to assess whether they should be censored by governments under flimsy pretexts such as network congestion.

More broadly, pro-regulation forces succeeded in upending decades of consensus on the meaning of crucial treaty definitions that were universally understood to insulate Internet service providers, as well as Internet content and application providers, from intergovernmental control by changing the treaty’s definitions.

If these regulatory expansionists are willing to conjure ITU authority where clearly none existed, their control-hungry imaginations will see no limits to the ITU’s authority over the Internet’s affairs under the new treaty language. Their appetite for regulatory expansionism is insatiable.

"In sum," he said, "the dramatic encroachments on Internet freedom secured in Dubai will serve as a stepping stone to more international regulation of the Internet in the very near future."

McDowell was in Dubai in December for the WCIT-12 treaty conference. The debacle led to an online outrage as the U.N.'s ITU deceived member states and ordinary citizens alike in its bid to attempt an Internet governance coup.

ITU Plenipotentiary 2014: The ITU must be stopped

McDowell refers to the ITU's upcoming 2014 plenipotentiary meeting, where he says: "Internet freedom's foes around the globe are working hard to exploit a treaty negotiation that dwarfs the importance of the WCIT by orders of magnitude. In 2014, the ITU will conduct what is literally a constitutional convention [that] will define the ITU's mission for years to come."

The 2014 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference ("PP-14") will be held in Busan, South Korea on October 20—November 7 next year.

In his testimony, McDowell bluntly told the joint House subcommittee that the results of plans being made by the ITU to secure Internet governance at this very moment for the 2014 plenipot, "will be devastating even if the United States does not ratify these toxic new treaties." McDowell explained:

We must waste no time fighting to prevent further governmental expansion into the Internet’s affairs at the upcoming ITU Plenipotentiary in 2014.

Time is of the essence. While we debate what to do next, Internet freedom’s foes around the globe are working hard to exploit a treaty negotiation that dwarfs the importance of the WCIT by orders of magnitude. In 2014, the ITU will conduct what is literally a constitutional convention, called a "plenipotentiary" meeting, which will define the ITU’s mission for years to come.

This month the ITU readies to hammer out Internet governance plans at the World Telecommunication Information and Communication Technology Policy Forum meetings in February and May 2013 prep for PP-14.

On January 11, 2013, ITU's Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure released the fourth and final ITU/WTPF-13 report outlining groundwork for Internet governance—and internet regulatory topics— at the February 6-8 and May 14-16 meetings.

The ITU/WTPF-13 report explicitly includes the creation of "Global Principles for the governance and use of the Internet," and resolving issues pertaining to "use of Internet resources for purposes that are inconsistent with international peace, stability and security."

It also redefines the multi-stakeholder definition of Internet governance as currently insufficient because it does not grant governments—now defined by ITU as underrepresented multi-stakeholders—"sufficient" Internet governance power.

FCC to Congress: U.N., ITU lied to us

The House Committees will also be flatly told in his testimony that the ITU cannot be trusted in word, act, or deed. According to McDowell:

Before the WCIT, ITU leadership made three key promises:

1) No votes would be taken at the WCIT;

2) A new treaty would be adopted only through "unanimous consensus;" and

3) Any new treaty would not touch the Internet.

All three promises were resoundingly broken.

Anti-ITU Internet opposition and activism can no longer be ignored

McDowell testified to Congress that since 2003, his office directly observed that countries such as China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia—and their allies—have never given up their regulatory quest. "They continued to push the ITU, and the U.N. itself, to regulate both the operations, economics and content of the Net," he said.

McDowell's testimony explained that Congress and the wider public must understand that serious damage was done when Internet guardians and U.S. officials didn't listen to early warnings about the ITU:

Many defenders of Internet freedom did not take [ITU's Internet governance] proposals seriously at first, even though some plans explicitly called for:

•   Changing basic definitions contained in treaty text so the ITU would have unrestricted jurisdiction over the Internet;

•   Allowing foreign phone companies to charge global content and application providers internationally mandated fees (ultimately to be paid by all Internet consumers) with the goal of generating revenue for foreign government treasuries;

•   Subjecting cyber security and data privacy to international control, including the creation of an international “registry” of Internet addresses that could track every Internet-connected device in the world;

•   Imposing unprecedented economic regulations of rates, terms and conditions for currently unregulated Internet traffic swapping agreements known as “peering;”

•   Establishing ITU dominion over important non-profit, private sector, multistakeholder functions, such as administering domain names like the .org and .com Web addresses of the world;

•   Subsuming into the ITU the functions of multi-stakeholder Internet engineering groups that set technical standards to allow the Net to work;

•   Centralizing under international regulation Internet content under the guise of controlling “congestion,” or other false pretexts; and many more.

In McDowell's powerful testimony, he told Congress the purpose of WCIT was actually to extend the ITU's reach into the Internet’s affairs, its governance, and much more

"In fact, in 2011, then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin summed it up best when he declared that his goal, and that of his allies, was to establish “international control over the Internet” through the ITU.

Last month in Dubai, Mr. Putin largely achieved his goal.

In conclusion, McDowell said that inaction is not an option, and doubt about the ITU's power to change the Internet is no longer acceptable if a free and open Internet is to be preserved—and saved.

And so, I ask you in the strongest terms possible, to take action and take action now.

Two years hence, let us not look back at this moment and lament how we did not do enough.

We have but one chance.

Let us tell the world that we will be resolute and stand strong for Internet freedom. All nations should join us.

Topics: Telcos, Government, Government US

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  • Precis

    After wading through to the end my summary would be "Americans object to global Internet democracy although out-voted 89-55."
    • A conference of ambassadors...

      ...appointed by national governments (many of which are anything but democratic) and acting by majority vote (each state having one vote) hardly constitutes democracy.
      John L. Ries
      • Yeah right

        Just like 2 senators for each state regardless of the size and population of the state. Very democratic ... US style.
        • Ignorance

          The United States is not a democracy, it is a republic. The Senate is 2 per State by design, because we have a federal system. If you don't like the system, too bad.
          Trevor Friberg
    • And

      since we pay the bills of most of the worlds governments, we should simply cut off any of them who do sign. No diplomatic contact, no trade, no support. You want to take control of the internet and censor it to your tastes...pay for your country to exist.
      • Foreign aid could be a consideration...

        ...but there are already a number of countries that exist even though we don't have any diplomatic relations with them (mostly hostile); and we know from our experience with Cuba (among other countries) that cutting off trade doesn't mean the government's going to be overthrown next week.

        Diplomacy, like politics in general, is the art of the possible.
        John L. Ries
      • This is a synopsis of the US election...

        Masses vote, minority carries the water, and suffers the loss of freedom/rights.
        • Minority?

          You do know that Obama carried the popular vote as well as the electoral, right?
          • The likes of that writer could care less about reality...

            ...its the very reason why people often say politics is one topic that is so difficult to discuss.

            Its already perfectly clear from the last election that there is one side that plainly has little interest in facts or fact checkers.

            Its quite a country that has a certain group of people who are always ready to absolutly vilify their leader in front of the world when it isnt their leader of choice.

            I think one U.S. President had a great quote on a slightly different subject (I expect) that can be applied just the same to the kind of people who allow themselves to be so dogmatic about their political stance they lose sight of how badly they hurt their own nation and bring a stark lack of credability to American politics generally. Like I said, different subject certainly, but this quote applies to the situation anyways:

            "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."—Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004
          • Of course

            but could have lost on electoral college even with overwhelming popular vote, like Al Gore did !
        • re: synopsis of the US election

          Fertilizer! Just another silly proclamation with no facts to back it up.
      • Who pays the bill...

        Don't be myopic, you don't pay the world's most bills. What you should be thinking about is how to stop the US buying other countries to do their biddings. Open your eyes and spend less time on FoxNews.
        • Absolutely right

          Reminds me of an old time book " Ugly American"
    • Sure -- Internet Democracy-nost

      Hmm. China, Russia, Suadi Arabia, Dubai (UAE) and I'm willing to bet, North Korea. Yup, sounds like internet democracy to me. If you were actually serious about this, you really should reposition that plexiglass window over your abdomen. I wonder, which of those 55 countries that did not accept the changes weren't democracries with parliamentary rule?

      Also, the UN is not the world's government -- not this decade anyway. If the UN can't even feed people in hungry countries, cannot stop people in Kofi Anans family from bilking UNESCO of 450 MILLION dollars -- what in the hell do you think they're going to do with "Governance of the Internet?"

      If you're not for a free and open internet, I consider you an enemy of democratic ideals and of free enterprise. Democratic ideals are relatively new in mankind's history and such a vote would be properly rejoined with a Mark Twain quote: Just because an idea is popular, doesn't make it right. And just because an idea ain't popular, doesn't mean it's wrong. In this case, I'm willing to bet the rest of my chips that of the 89 votes for, their total doesn't represent: 1) More than a quarter of the world's industrialized countries; 2) More than a quarter of significantly wired nations/populations and 3) More than 20% of the world GDP.

      I don't care if I'm wrong, though feel quite confident that, without even looking, I am closer to right than you'll ever be.
    • Precis not so accurate, thank you

      You missed something after "wading through" :

      Before the WCIT, ITU leadership made three key promises:

      1) No votes would be taken at the WCIT;

      2) A new treaty would be adopted only through "unanimous consensus;" and

      3) Any new treaty would not touch the Internet.

      All three promises were resoundingly broken.

      Too bad you missed . . .. we could have been spared all the comments that followed up on yours.
      ITU too
    • Good.

      Why should there be any global control of the internet in the first place? It was invented by Americans and given to everyone else without licensing fees. The internet is as useful as it is precisely because it has been mostly free from the control of bureaucrats.
      Trevor Friberg
  • What actions do the FCC commissioners have in mind?

    The article doesn't say.

    It seems to me that the one leverage we do have is membership in and cooperation with the ITU. I don't think we're in a position to declare war on the states pushing this, or even to seek the ITU's dissolution, but an ITU limited to authoritarian and totalitarian states isn't going to be of much value even to the states that remain.
    John L. Ries
    • I should note...

      ...that Congress isn't a terribly useful forum for dealing with this. The President and the Secretary of State are the people charged with conducting foreign relations; they're the ones who need to act.
      John L. Ries
      • This is not foreign policy

        Anything that comes from this would be a treaty. Treaties, are carried by State, on POTUS behalf, to the Senate, for Ratification.

        If ratified, the house funds/supports them, usually.

        The House's message was, the US pays the freight for most of the worlds telecom, and most of the UN's largesse. Apparently the Star Wars Bar scene at the UN got the message.
        • But maybe it is

          We are members of the U.N. and I don't know to what extent we've given treaty power to the U.N. to coordinate the governance of things like this among the international community, but it may be that we've already signed up to agree to the popular vote on this one.
          It might take an active revocation of a certain part of the treaty (or a determination that that aspect of the treaty is unconstitutional).