Be Afraid: Russia And China Seek To Put In Place Top-Down Regulation Of The Internet
from the pay-attention dept
- Subject cyber security and data privacy to international control;
- Allow foreign phone companies to charge fees for "international" Internet traffic, perhaps even on a "per-click" basis for certain Web destinations, with the goal of generating revenue for state-owned phone companies and government treasuries;
- Impose unprecedented economic regulations such as mandates for rates, terms and conditions for currently unregulated traffic-swapping agreements known as "peering."
- Establish for the first time ITU dominion over important functions of multi-stakeholder Internet governance entities such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit entity that coordinates the .com and .org Web addresses of the world;
- Subsume under intergovernmental control many functions of the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Society and other multi-stakeholder groups that establish the engineering and technical standards that allow the Internet to work;
- Regulate international mobile roaming rates and practices.
The fact that this effort is mainly being led by Russia and China should give you a sense of the intentions here. Neither country is particularly well-known for supporting the principles of open communications or freedom of speech.
Unfortunately, as McDowell notes, the US doesn't seem to be taking the issue particularly seriously, and hasn't even assigned a negotiator to handle the discussions (though, I'm afraid to find out who they eventually do assign to that role). McDowell also points out that simply saying "no" to any changes probably won't go over well with many countries -- and all Russia and China need to get this approved are half of the countries to side with them on this proposal. Since doing nothing is often seen as ceding the internet to the US, that could be a problem. Of course, that doesn't mean caving in. It means engaging and getting enough people aware of these issues so they can make a reasonable case for why a top-down management system would have massive unintended (or, um, intended) consequences that the world doesn't want:
As part of this conversation, we should underscore the tremendous benefits that the Internet has yielded for the developing world through the multi-stakeholder model.This issue is going to pick up steam pretty quickly in the next few months, so educate yourselves now...
Upending this model with a new regulatory treaty is likely to partition the Internet as some countries would inevitably choose to opt out. A balkanized Internet would be devastating to global free trade and national sovereignty. It would impair Internet growth most severely in the developing world, but also globally as technologists are forced to seek bureaucratic permission to innovate and invest. This would also undermine the proliferation of new cross-border technologies, such as cloud computing.
A top-down, centralized, international regulatory overlay is antithetical to the architecture of the Net, which is a global network of networks without borders. No government, let alone an intergovernmental body, can make engineering and economic decisions in lightning-fast Internet time. Productivity, rising living standards and the spread of freedom everywhere, but especially in the developing world, would grind to a halt as engineering and business decisions become politically paralyzed within a global regulatory body.
Any attempts to expand intergovernmental powers over the Internet—no matter how incremental or seemingly innocuous—should be turned back. Modernization and reform can be constructive, but not if the end result is a new global bureaucracy that departs from the multi-stakeholder model. Enlightened nations should draw a line in the sand against new regulations while welcoming reform that could include a nonregulatory role for the ITU.