Bad Idea List: ITU UN Plan To Regulate The Internet
The International Telecommunication Union Standardization (ITU-T) is no longer only interested in telecommunications standards, now they what to regulate the whole Internet. ITU-T is a part of the United Nation that had a leaked document over the summer that outlines their plans of regulating, content filtering and even taxing companies for the use of the Internet. The ITU is a closed body attempting to regulate an open Internet (in some parts of the world), with open communities developing it. Closed regulatory and standards bodies have no place in technology, much less Internet regulations.
The UN, with histories of sex-scandals, oil-for-food scandal and an all around inability to prevent war and genocide now wants to regulate the Internet? The list of failures is long and revealing. Wikipedia: Criticism of the United Nations
Leaked drafts show that Russia is seeking rules giving individual countries broad permission to shape the content and structure of the Internet within their borders, while a group of Arab countries is advocating universal identification of Internet users. Some developing countries and telecom providers, meanwhile, want to make content providers pay for Internet transmission.
Under the treaty which by the way is completely closed to the public:
- Each country would be notified of the IP addresses of each email user within its borders (allowing China and Russia to track down dissidents)
- The U.N. would distribute and assign all domain names instead of IANA.
- And every country could charge a surcharge for access to any websites that originate beyond its borders.
- The UN could regulate Internet content.
- Every nation would have the right to censor websites that originate within its borders
Google Leading The Outcry
Google and every other content providers has risk to it’s business as it relies on open networks to deliver content. Paying levies to deliver content abroad would disrupt many more than just Google.
“A new international battle is brewing, a battle that will determine the future of the Internet …And if all of us – from Capitol Hill to corporate headquarters to Internet cafés in far-off villages – don’t pay attention to what is going on, users worldwide will be at risk of losing the open and free Internet that has brought so much to so many and can bring so much more… Several authoritarian regimes reportedly would ban anonymity from the web, which would make it easier to find and arrest dissidents. Others have suggested moving the privately run system that manages domain names and Internet addresses to the United Nations.” – Vinton Cerf, Google’s chief Internet evangelist
Clearly the threat to Google, others are still looking to the ITU-T for standards as pointed out in this article on Nov 27th Network giants want software-defined network standards. At least this is a more appropriate topic for the UN standards body.
The European Union Opinion
A resolution was passed by members of the EU Parliament expressing similar concerns of content providers like Google and the United States.
The European Parliament has come out against changes that could expand the UN International Telecommunication Union’s oversight of the Internet. A newly issued resolution warns that “the ITU, or any other single, centralised international institution, is not the appropriate body to assert regulatory authority over either Internet governance or Internet traffic flows,” and raises concerns that some of the proposals could undermine the free flow of online information. Any new regulations, the resolution says, should make certain that “freedom of expression and assembly… are respected and the observance of free market principles, net neutrality and entrepreneurship are ensured.” – theverge.com
The United States Opinion
Predictably, the US is also against this. This has the risk of stifling economic growth and reads like communism to some.
“The US is concerned that proposals by some other governments could lead to greater regulatory burdens being placed on the international telecom sector, or perhaps even extended to the Internet sector. The United States also believes that existing multi-stakeholder institutions, incorporating industry and civil society, have functioned effectively and will continue to ensure the health and growth of the Internet and all its benefits.” – Terry Kramer – US Ambassador to the December Conference
This is a fast path to the land of irrelevancy for the ITU. The notion that countries that countries making up this committee believe in extreme censorship and women not being permitted basic civil rights is downright offensive. Execution by stoning still takes place in the middle east, how about putting some energy there.
“It is another last-ditch effort to return to the day when regulators protected carriers from the nasty realities of innovation and competition,” – Vinton Cerf, Google’s chief Internet evangelist
This all feels pretty crooked to me. There is almost no articulation as to what is broken today that the ITU feels the need to intervene and solve. Even if half of what is proposed went through, it would be a colossal failure because the Internet is far too distributed. If any of the imbecile politicians that hatched this idea, had any clue as to what technically it would take to execute this, it would have never made it past the first poorly drafted document.
The idea of some of the voting members of the United Nations having any say towards Internet regulation for any westernized country is unbelievable. For example the progressive country of Ethiopia has some fantastic vision when it comes to telephony.
Last month, UN voting member Ethiopia made it a crime — punishable by 15 years in prison — to make calls over the Internet. The Ethiopian government cited national security concerns, but also made it clear that it wants to protect the revenues of the state-owned telecom monopoly. – Steve DelBianco
This makes SOPA look like a parking ticket. The ITU is trying to solve a non-existent problem, that is a major red flag. They are preying on fear, uncertainty and doubt on the risk to the global economy if the Internet continues to be unregulated. The problem is, the Internet itself is the most successful distributed technology in history. Any attempt to centralize policy will end in miserable expensive failure.
“Any place that bans certain terms from search should not be a leader in an international Internet regulatory framework.” Marco Rubio Florida Senator – Terry Kramer – US Ambassador to the December Conference
This is one of those times it might be worth signing a quick petition or passing an email on to the family because the Internet is the fabric of our future. If at such infancy we begin stifling openness, innovation and allow for greater censorship it will have far reaching impact on future generations.