You can find the language of the resolution HERE; the vote was non-binding and was strictly a moral victory for proponents of a “free internet”. But there’s a problem – the two “sides” fighting over control of the internet both claim to be fighting on behalf of a “free internet”. At the core of the dispute – Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) are all on the side of making modifications to the way the internet is currently regulated.
Currently – the internet is controlled by ICANN – a non-profit private organization based in the U.S. The rules of ICANN are derived from the Department of Commerce; of course – the U.S. did create the internet … so there’s that. ICANN has done a great job governing the rules and laws of the internet; they’re not a controversial organization by any means. BRIC countries are pushing forward for a more U.N. centric internet moving away from ICANN. But the European Union and the U.S. seem to be against that and President Obama has said repeatedly that he would not support it.
As Talking Points Memo points out HERE:
The resolution also has the Parliament repeating a refrain that began in earnest over the summer: that the conference could somehow lead to a “takeover” of the Internet by the U.N. or that the conference could be “hijacked” by those nations that proposed more tight state controls and taxes over the Internet, such as Russia, China, Iran, and some Arabic and Eastern European nations. As the resolution spells out:
“As a consequence of some of the proposals presented, the ITU itself could become the ruling power over aspects of the internet, which could end the present bottom-up, multi-stakeholder model; expresses concern that, if adopted, these proposals may seriously affect the development of, and access to, online services for end users, as well as the digital economy as a whole…
…the ITU reform proposals include the establishment of new profit mechanisms that could seriously threaten the open and competitive nature of the internet, driving up prices, hampering innovation and limiting access; recalls that the internet should remain free and open.”
Concerns that the conference could negatively impact the freedom and openness to the Internet are also at the heart of Google’s new online campaign, “#FreeAndOpen,” launched Tuesday, which asks Web users to sign a petition to “join together to keep the Internet free and open. Make your voice heard.” “>potentially censorship and taxes, over the Internet.
And while there is a battle and friction between the old Western alliances and the BRIC countries … the NY Times says it’s not really some nefarious fight to control the internet but that it’s mostly about money. Eric Pfanner at the NY Times writes HERE:
What is really at stake, some analysts say, is money.
Robert M. McDowell, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, told a U.S. House committee last month that he was aware of treaty proposals that could enable foreign telecommunications companies to levy fees on Google, Facebook, Netflix and other U.S. Internet companies that are heavy users of bandwidth. This would be “devastating to global economic activity,” he said.
The European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association, a lobbying group based in Brussels, has called for the treaty to permit the management of telecommunications traffic. Internet companies generally oppose this idea, calling instead for “network neutrality” — the idea that all traffic, from simple voice calls to bandwidth-heavy video, should be given equal priority.
The treaty “should acknowledge the challenges of the new Internet economy and the principles that fair compensation is received for carried traffic and operators’ revenues should not be disconnected from the investment needs caused by rapid Internet traffic growth,” the operators’ association said in a submission to the I.T.U.
Thus the real conflict is not over governance of the Internet, some analysts say, but over the division of the spoils, with international telecommunications operators trying to use the I.T.U. to extract revenue from American Internet companies.
Meanwhile the sometimes propagandist Russia Today tries to spin Russia’s position as being more pro-freedom HERE:
Russia backed by China and India is pushing through a takeover of the internet by a UN supranational agency to make the web truly universal. The aim of the plan is to standardize the behavior of countries concerning information and cyberspace.
Leading emerging economies supported by other United Nations members initiated the discussion around handing over internet regulation to a UN agency. At present it is controlled by private shareholders.
I don’t think there is any question that countries like China and Russia would love to be able to turn off the internet with an on/off switch as both countries are highly centralized top-down governments that struggle with free speech. On the other hand – the American government has on multiple occasions searched for the means to have political support to stage their own coup d’etat of the internet.
In 2011 – the House Judiciary committee actually passed a bill called “The Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011″ that would have eliminated privacy on the internet forever (source). It was named that intentionally to force through the bill. Thankfully – that bill didn’t pass but there were many other attempts: SOPA, CISPA etc. The only thing that will stop a government takeoever of the internet are truly educated citizens; the challenge of course is knowing the truth. The next attempt to cede control of the internet to the government will come in the form of claiming to want to protect it … but so will the next attempt to actually protect it.
So pay attention.
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