A world’s governments meeting will be held in a just a few weeks, and it could very well decide the future of the Internet through a binding international treaty. It’s called the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), and it’s being organized by a government-controlled UN agency called the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
Most of us are familiar with the attacks against Internet freedom that have been proposed over the last year through bills like SOPA, or PIPA., both anti-free market attempts to control content. Or the left’s undying advocacy for “Net Neutrality which would prevent telecoms from divvying up their bandwidth and charging sites for quick load times. A new document from Ron Paul and Rand Paul called “The Technology Revolution” lay out the Pauls’ roadmap for where they’ll focus their considerable leverage in protecting a free unregulated Internet. And it looks like we will need all the help we can get.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), an obscure U.N. agency that develops voluntary stands for international phone networks and communications satellites, is mulling whether or not to adopt new rules that could have a deeply profound and detrimental effort on the Internet.
The process began in Geneva this year that could result in a new treaty giving the U.N. unprecedented powers over the Internet. Dozens of countries like Russia and China are pushing hard to reach this goal by the end of this year. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said last year that his goal and that of his “allies” was to establish “international control over the Internet” through the ITU. If successful, these new regulations would well end the Internet as we know it.
Since the Net’s inception, engineers, academics, user groups and others have convened in bottom-up nongovernmental organizations to keep it operating and thriving through what is known as a “multi-stakeholder” governance model. This consensus-driven private-sector approach has been the key to the Net’s phenomenal success.
Net access is improving the human condition and no where is this more evident than in developing countries where unfettered Internet technologies are expanding economies and raising living standards. Therein lies the rub. Countries like Russia, China, and Iran want to renegotiate the 1988 treaty that was established in Australia that basically deregulated the Internet. How better to expand their tyranny than close off the information highway.
In preparation for the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) to be held December 3-14, 2012, in Dubai, the World Telecommunication Standards Assembly (WTSA) is meeting November 20-29 to establish new regulations for the Internet that would give control over to the United Nations. Although negotiations have been “behind closed doors” some of the proposed changes have leaked out.
- Cyber Security and data privacy would be turned over to International control.
- Would allow foreign phone companies to charge fees for Internet traffic.
- Impose unprecedented economic regulations – rates, terms and conditions for traffic swapping agreements or “peering”.
- Give ITU dominion over .com and .org Web addresses of the world.
- Give ITU dominance over Internet standards.
- Regulate international mobile roaming rates and practices.
- Give ITU ability to cut off access to certain web sites by blocking online traffic.
- Would control the distribution and assignment of all E names.
- A list of IP addressed would be supplied to the government of users within its borders.
- Would allow government to control access to websites within its border.
Pro-regulation forces are, thus far, much more energized and organized than those who favor the multi-stakeholder approach. Regulation proponents only need to secure a simple majority of the 193 member states to codify their radical and counterproductive agenda. Unlike the U.N. Security Council, no country can wield a veto in ITU proceedings. With this in mind, some estimate that approximately 90 countries could be supporting intergovernmental Net regulation—a mere seven short of a majority. And if that isn’t bad enough, Putin wants the current head of the ITU, Hamadoun Toure, to become the new Internet Czar. Toure was educated at the Leningrad Institution and at the Moscow Technical University.
Changing the current free access model to one regulated by International treaty will partition the Internet, will destroy free trade and national sovereignty, impair Internet growth and destroy cross border technologies such as cloud computing.
The past five years have seen an explosion in the liberty movement, fueled in large part by the Internet. Preserving that freedom is crucial if the liberty movement is to continue its progress. Therefore, all activists in the liberty movement have a stake in the battle for Internet freedom. We must be ready to come together to fight any attempt to increase the federal government or International power over the Internet, regardless of the supposed justifications. We must resist voices from both the political right and left which alternatively seek to legislate morality or enforce political correctness with force. Copyright protection, pornography, cyberterrorism, gambling, and “hate speech” are merely excuses for doing what all governments have done throughout human history: increase their size, scope, power and control.
Once we understand this, we understand the critical link between Internet freedom and human freedom.