Who runs the Internet? For now, the answer remains no one, or at least no government, which explains the Web's success as a new technology. But as of next week, unless the U.S. gets serious, the answer could be the United Nations.
Many of the U.N.'s 193 member states oppose the open, uncontrolled nature of the Internet. Its interconnected global networks ignore national boundaries, making it hard for governments to censor or tax. And so, to send the freewheeling digital world back to the state control of the analog era, China, Russia, Iran and Arab countries are trying to hijack a U.N. agency that has nothing to do with the Internet.
For more than a year, these countries have lobbied an agency called the International Telecommunications Union to take over the rules and workings of the Internet. Created in 1865 as the International Telegraph Union, the ITU last drafted a treaty on communications in 1988, before the commercial Internet, when telecommunications meant voice telephone calls via national telephone monopolies.
Next week the ITU holds a negotiating conference in Dubai, and past months have brought many leaks of proposals for a new treaty. U.S. congressional resolutions and much of the commentary, including in this column, have focused on proposals by authoritarian governments to censor the Internet. Just as objectionable are proposals that ignore how the Internet works, threatening its smooth and open operations.
Having the Internet rewired by bureaucrats would be like handing a Stradivarius to a gorilla. The Internet is made up of 40,000 networks that interconnect among 425,000 global routes, cheaply and efficiently delivering messages and other digital content among more than two billion people around the world, with some 500,000 new users a day.
Google has started an online petition for a "free and open Internet" saying: "Governments alone, working behind closed doors, should not direct its future." The State Department's top delegate to the Dubai conference, Terry Kramer, has pledged that the U.S. won't let the ITU expand its authority to the Internet. But he hedged his warning in a recent presentation in Washington: "We don't want to come across like we're preaching to others."
To the contrary, the top job for the U.S. delegation at the ITU conference is to preach the virtues of the open Internet as forcefully as possible. Billions of online users are counting on America to make sure that their Internet is never handed over to authoritarian governments or to the U.N.
(Full article at the link)
Dont want to come across like we're preaching to others?? It looks Mr. Kramer would rather fit in with the UN crowd. The US has had no problem spreading so-called democracy at gun-point (or by drone bombing) in many places in the world, increasingly so under the current regime. But it shies away from making the point in a peaceful manner. Interesting.
Mr. Crovitz says dictatorial governments like China, Russia, Iran and Arab countries want to control and censor the net. President Obama signed the executive order in July this year "to empower certain governmental agencies with control over telecommunications and the Web during natural disasters and security emergencies" (CNET). I have a feeling that China, Russia, Iran and Arab countries are thinking about the same thing anyway, "natural disasters and security emergencies".
"Proposals for the new ITU treaty run to more than 200 pages", according to the article. I wonder who wrote it.
Here's the link to Google's Take Action page.