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The ITU’s Dead-of-Night Vote to Increase Regulatory Control of the Internet

· December 13, 2012

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Last night, an unexpected, unprecedented vote occurred at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai, a summit organized by the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which may lead to greater regulatory control over Internet governance.  As IP-Watch noted, the WCIT Chair asked “ for a ‘sense of the room’ by a show of the name plates [and then] declared the resolution adopted by the majority of delegates.”  The vote carried, over the opposition of the United States and others.  Declan McCullagh explained that this occurred “after the head of the ITU, a U.N. agency, had promised not to hold votes on controversial topics, and appeared to take the U.S. and Europe by surprise.”  CCIA and others have been “sounding the alarm”, calling attention to this problematic development.  (See the association’s release from this morning explaining details and positions.)

DisCo contributors have written about WCIT before: CCIA’s Nick Ashton-Hart wrote a few weeks ago about how the WCIT proposals threaten the Internet’s disruptive potential, and violate international trade commitments.  Ross Schulman, who is currently on the ground in Dubai, has also written specifically about how ETNO’s ITU proposal would raise the cost of innovation on the Internet.

The Obama Administration came out on Tuesday united behind the free flow of information on the Internet, proclaiming:

The global consensus for a free and open Internet is overwhelming.  Millions in the United States and around the world have already added their voices to this conversation, and their position is clear: they do not want the WCIT to govern the Internet or legitimize more state control over online content.  Our Administration could not agree more – and will not support a treaty that sets that kind of precedent.

This is an ongoing development and we are paying attention.  While only governments can vote at the WCIT, there are platforms for staying informed and making your voice heard, such as a campaign by Fight For The Future, and another by Google.

Innovation

New technologies are constantly emerging that promise to change our lives for the better. These disruptive technologies give us an increase in choice, make technologies more accessible, make things more affordable, and give consumers a voice. And the pace of innovation has only quickened in recent years, as the Internet has enabled a wave of new, inter-connected devices that have benefited consumers around the world, seemingly in all aspects of their lives. Preserving an innovation-friendly market is, therefore, tantamount not only to businesses but society at large.