Categories: NetworksRegulation

The US Doesn’t Want The Internet Controlled By The UN

United States representatives have confirmed they will oppose the changes to the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs) that could transfer the control of the Internet to an agency of the United Nations (UN).

The changes to the way the Internet is governed will be discussed in December at the World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai.

At present, several non-profit US bodies, like the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), oversee the net’s technical specifications and domain name system.

Internet rules

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), based in Geneva, is the specialized agency of the UN overseeing information and communication technologies. At the moment, it coordinates the global use of the radio spectrum, assigns satellite orbits and establishes international standards.

However, there are countries which want to see ITU take more responsibility for the governance of the Internet.

The future of the Internet will be decided at the World Conference on International Telecommunications, which will bring together representatives of 178 ITU member states. The event aims to review the current ITRs which “serve as the binding global treaty outlining the principles which govern the way international voice, data and video traffic is handled”. The last time this had happened was in Melbourne, Australia in 1988.

The US authorities are worried that the conference will be used as an opportunity to call for more powers to be given to the ITU. This would be a stark contrast to the current “multi-stakeholder model”, which sees businesses, civil society, governments and research institutions participating in the decision making together and on equal terms.

For example, according to BBC, a leaked Russian submission to the ITU suggests that the organisation should take over allocation of at least some of the Internet addresses, the job currently done by ICANN. China and India have also expressed their support for the reforms.

ICANN has been previously criticised by businesses and international bodies, including the UN, over its launch of “dot-anything” domains.

“The Internet has grown precisely because it has not been micro-managed or owned by any government or multinational organization,” said Terry Kramer, the special US envoy to ITU, reports AFP.

“There is no Internet central office. Its openness and decentralization are its strengths,” he added.

Other proposals to be discussed at the conference could see telecommunication operators taxed for their Internet use, which would  hit large companies in the US. The issues of “net neutrality” and traffic management will also be on the agenda.

According to the ITU rules, any changes to the treaties must have unanimous support. This means the US is likely to achieve its goal of maintaining minimal changes to the ITRs.

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Max Smolaks

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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