U.S. now 'totally unified' in opposition of U.N. Internet governance

U.S. now 'totally unified' in opposition of U.N. Internet governance

Summary: The U.S. House of Representatives has unanimously approved a resolution to oppose U.N. intent to govern and regulate the Internet at its WCIT-12 conference in Dubai, currently underway. [UPDATED]

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TOPICS: Government
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U.S. Capitol. Image: Wikimedia

In a historical moment of unanimous agreement -- an eye-opening 397-0 vote -- the U.S. House of Representatives voted today to approve a resolution pushing the U.S. government to fight the United Nations in its bid to control and change the Internet at the WCIT-12 summit, currently under way in Dubai. 

The unanimous vote is meant to send a signal -- as a show of strength -- to other countries meeting at the telecommunications summit that both the White House and its lawmakers oppose any role the U.N. might take in Internet governance or regulation.

The WCIT-12 summit is where the U.N.'s little-known arm, International Telecommunications Union (ITU), is facilitating updates and changes to global telecommunications regulations that would place the Internet under the control of nation states.

This week, ITU member states are at the Dubai summit arguing over proposals from countries, most notably oppressive regimes such as Russia and China, that would impose levies on Internet traffic and adopt standards that would make it easy to track Internet users' activities.

It would give governments more effective control over citizens' access and use, as well as establish standards for telephone-style fee collection for Internet use.

According to The HillRep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said:

We need to send a strong message to the world that the Internet has thrived under a decentralized, bottom-up, multi-stakeholder governance model.

The ITU denies that the U.N. is making a play for control of the Internet, or the ITU grabbing a larger role in Internet governance.

In a recent email exchange ITU's Senior Communications Officer Toby Johnson told ZDNet:

ITU's Secretary General has repeatedly said that this is not the case. In fact there are no proposals to the conference to this effect.

ITU's mandate with regards to the Internet is very clearly laid down in various Resolutions that cannot be overridden by anything that happens in Dubai. So this is just a myth. 

However, Johnson did not respond to ZDNet's request for evidence to support this claim.

Prior to the summit's Monday opening ceremonies, the EU's upper house, the European Parliament, voted to oppose the U.N.'s plans to regulate the Internet.

The 27 EU member states also voted unanimously, joining the U.S. to fight the ITU's WCIT-12 plans as a unified bloc. The E.U. is backed in its stance by Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and other countries who are also members of the ITU.

"The EU believes that there is no justification for such proposals," said the European Commission, on Friday. The opinion given by Europe's lower house was the view of all 27 member states, it said.

According to the Reuters news agency, EU Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who is in charge of Europe's Internet policy, said the ITU proposals "risk damaging the Internet's evolution as a critical piece of global commercial infrastructure and a network for the free flow of information and data."

"The European Union's firm view is that the Internet works," she said earlier this week. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

The ITU responded, claiming the EU resolution was flawed:

...it is unfortunate and disappointing to see that the European Parliament appears to base its Resolution on misleading and erroneous conjecture put forth by certain companies who are defending their commercial interests, in particular when those companies are not even European companies.

Opposition to ITU's WCIT-12 summit, fueled by details on the proposed changes leaking onto the Internet, are mounting.

ITU member states continue to argue over proposals from a range of countries, most notably oppressive regimes -- including as Russia and China -- which could impose levies on Internet traffic and adopt standards, making it easier to track Internet users' activities.

The proposals would give governments more effective control over citizens' access and use, as well as establish standards for telephone-style fee collection for Internet use.

Changes under consideration at WCIT-12 would pit citizens' rights to communicate against rules that will allow the member states to cut off and potentially intercept communications under vague wordings for cases that, "appear dangerous to the security of the State [...] or to public order or decency."

Proposed changes at WCIT-12 would also legitimize the pay-per-model of the Internet and would in all likelihood threaten 'net neutrality'.

The ITU has carried out years of studies and engaged in persistent maneuvering to figure out how to charge for, and measure, Internet traffic -- but has never come up with a firm, mutually-agreed proposal on how to do it.

Many will be surprised to see the United States unified in such a way -- for anything.

One thing shouldn't be overlooked. Standing against the ITU's endless wrangling over Internet controls sends a message toward governments that are excited at the prospects of getting tighter control of the internet by way of their telecoms (and the attractive lure of billions in increased revenue).

Again, from The Hill, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) told the House:

The 193 member countries of the United Nations are gathered to consider whether to apply to the Internet a regulatory regime that the International Telecommunications Union created in the 1980s for old-fashioned telephone service.

He said member states will also consider whether to, "swallow the Internet's non-governmental organizational structure whole and make it part of the United Nations."

"Neither of these are acceptable outcomes and must be strongly opposed by our delegation," he added.

Updated at 4:13 p.m. PST: 

When reached for comment about the U.S. resolution, ITU Senior Communications Officer Toby Johnson told ZDNet: 

The UN has no mandate to control the Internet; regulation only takes place at the national level and nothing that comes out of this conference will change that. It is legally and technically impossible for the ITU to control the internet.

However, ITU's Johnson did not explain or comment on the resolution itself, what effect it will have on WCIT-12 proceedings, or what is now becoming global opposition to the ITU's efforts.

Topic: Government

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109 comments
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  • Yeah right!

    If they were as opposed as they're saying, then how did the UN get control of the Root Domains?
    slickjim
    • actually...

      The UN doesn't have any control or access to the root domain zones. Those are private property of the US Department of Commerce.

      Which means, even if these countries do make changes, it will be limited to their countries. Which means, the NAFTA Americas and Europe Union will have yet another insanely powerful advantage over the rest of the world.

      It's like the whole world seems hell bent on throwing power and money at us.
      B A James Kennedy
      • Re: actually...

        "It's like the whole world seems hell bent on throwing power and money at us."

        LOL, well put.

        This whole thing seems to be crafted for one purpose: to further oppress those in certain nations... You know which ones I'm talking about.
        jetsethi
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          stefaniecarter29
          • Idiot!!!

            Stop spamming comment section ass**le!!! This is a serious discussion.
            Garikai Dzoma
          • A metapoint

            And you just made a good case for the net retaining its own control. It works fine, just as Wikipedia does. When spammers and idiots try to hog bandwidth, they get jumped on ;')
            James Mooney
      • It''s a step..

        This news is a step in the right direction. Whether or not they're actively opposing U.N. takeover behind the scenes, at least they are taking a public stance of resistance. The rest of the world will hear us opposing it and realize it doesn't have a chance of succeeding. Most likely, the entire idea will just fade away slowly.
        BillDem
      • @B A James Kennedy (regarding UN rules being limited to certain countries)

        B A James Kennedy,
        Your assumption is flawed. If the UN gains control of the Internet, whatever rules the UN imposes on the internet would be required to be followed by all member nations of the UN. You can draw an exact analogy to what's going on with drugs in this country today and the war on drugs. Some states have legalized drugs yet they are still illegal under FEDERAL law. SOOO, legally, the states must follow the federal law (or the most restrictive law). The same applies to the internet. If you doubt what I say, look on the internet for articles regarding federal drug busts of medical marijuana growers in states where it is actually legal. It's an exact analogy (as I said above). All member nations would have to follow the more restrictive rules that would be imposed by the UN.
        keith.schmidt
        • Really? Like the war on drugs?

          So what you're saying is I can get any kind of Internet anytime I want?
          Rob Berman
  • Internet the Democratic True Town Hall

    The Internet is owned by the users. "That's what makes the Internet so remarkable: It's a system that lets different computer networks communicate with each other using a standardized set of rules. Without rules, these computer networks wouldn't be able to communicate with each other." Sorry no one can take the Internet over and control it. The best power hungry tyrants can do is block access temporarily.
    FareedAnsari
    • Who owns the Internet?

      It's like saying people own the telephone system, or the telegraph before it, or the public road system. You "own" it because you happen to use it? Hardly. Pa-leez.
      edelbrp
      • We do own it

        We do own it, particularly if "it" is the "public" road system. Why do you think its called "public"? And we do own the telephone system. We (the ratepayers) payed for it. Then the Telcos stole it when tthe government improperly privatized the ratepayer owned infrastructure and allowed the broken up Bell System to re-monopolize telecom in early 2000's. Its still on the public's rights of way. It needs to be reclaimed and taken back from the klepto-oligarchs.
        rberger@...
        • Ratepayers own telecom

          What a statement of socialist propaganda. You are saying we own all the property of the private companies we do business with. We no more own the infrastructure the shareholders in AT&T built and paid for just because we pay rent for them than a renter owns the apartment he rents. The property the phone and power lines cross belong to the individual property owners, but the power, water, gas, and phone companies were given a right of way and that remains whether there is a change in ownership of the property just like a driveway that crosses another persons' property has a permanent right of way or easement. The companies own the infrastructure they built on that easement whether you paid for the commodities that passed through it or not, because you did not pay for the infrastructure, you paid for the materials that were delivered through that infrastructure. And, the original ignorant decision to break up the Bell System has not had any good impact on our economy or the services we receive. The breakup had nothing to do with the rise of cell phones or the competitiion that came from it. That would have happened either way, and Bell could have been prevented from competing for cell phone business at any time.
          bob_e_y
          • agreed.

            Well said.
            Godmocker
          • The infrastructure is not the internet

            What you fail to realize is that the internet is comprised of a handful of open standards called the TCP Stack. It can be implemented by anyone on any scale, and each provider plays only a very small, very insignificant, very easily replaced role in implementing the internet.

            It's the very reason that aside from threatening arrest, you really can't remove anything once it's online. Everything is replaceable; none of it is owned by anyone.

            This is different from phone and fax in that your local phone company pays for and owns every aspect of the pipeline except the telephones themselves.

            Socialist propaganda? How about clueless conservative?
            Rei Miyasaka
          • It's still socialist crap, and standards is part of the infrastructure,

            and so are the decisions that are made to keep or erase data on the internet.

            Everything we see and use on the internet, is through the hard work of the companies and their employees who built it. The government was there to create regulations and to stake a claim in it usage in the early development of the system. Without government's hand in the development of the infrastructure, chances are that it would have taken longer to build, and it probably would have looked and worked differently, but, for the most part, it's been the work of the private sector that has made the internet what it is.

            Government has its functions, but the private sector is the creator of all things that matter to an economy and the general welfare of the country.

            And, yes, I'm a conservative, and very proud of it. Socialism only serves to destroy anything that it is allowed to creep into. That's why the country is going to hell.
            adornoe
          • Right On!

            Yeah, the socialists want to control EVERYTHING by claiming ownership. Last I looked we still lived in America - a Free Country. ????
            leb4
          • Wrong label

            Neither Russia nor China are Socialist.
            James Mooney
          • China calls itself socialist

            But it appears to be evolving toward crony capitalism, which is where Russia is already.
            John L. Ries
          • Define your understanding of socialism.

            n/t
            adornoe