Will the United Nations International Telecommunications Union (“ITU”) seek control over the Internet?
We hope not, and we’ll fight against it! Before we find out the answer to that question at this year’s World Conference on International Telecommunications, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution [spearheaded by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO)] opposing expansion of the ITU’s authority to the Internet. Earlier this year, the House Energy & Commerce Committee passed similar legislation set forth by Representative Bono Mack (CA-45) along with 54 bipartisan co-sponsors including, Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), and Ranking Subcommittee Member Anna Eshoo (D-CA).
In the past year, China, Russia, and a few other countries have urged the ITU to assert control over the Internet. If the ITU expands its authority, the UN agency will oversee key issues such as cybersecurity, data privacy, technical standards, etc.
What is the ITU you might ask? The ITU is a United Nations agency specializing in information and communication technologies. Originally established to oversee the operation of telecommunication networks and services, the ITU seeks to remain relevant in today’s world of the Internet and mobile devices by updating its 1988 International Telecommunications Regulations (“ITR”). Despite denials from the ITU’s Secretary-General Dr. Hamadoun I. Touré that the conference will focus on Internet governance, a leaked document indicates that the UN agency may consider altering the ITR to bring the Internet under its control. I, Yann.
The Internet Association does not support ITU gaining Internet regulatory authority. We stand with Congress in its display of solidarity with tech companies, advocacy groups, and the online community in opposing the ITU’s efforts.
As suggested by FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell in his Wall Street Journal article, the success of the Internet is rooted in its decentralized, voluntary, and self-governing structure – the result of a multi-stakeholder system free from top-down governmental control or influence. Changes this to this framework would fundamentally damage the Internet’s operation, and the Internet as we know it today would cease to exist. Ultimately, these changes would lead to grave ramifications for the global community by censoring speech, stifling innovation, and obstructing global economic growth.
Stopping the ITU will not be easy, but it must start with a global Internet user engagement. The Internet Association looks forward to participating in that effort.
Now that you know what we think, let us know what you think and join the discussion.