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Sydney Morning Herald: UN organization seeks to expand its authority over the Internet

Thu, 10/11/2012 - 15:04 -- OpenMedia

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a United Nations organization representing 193 countries, is developing proposals that could reverse Internet accessibility and legitimize undemocratic practices.

Speak out against these continued threats to our Internet use and sign the Declaration of Internet Freedom at http://openmedia.org/declaration.

Article by Asher Moses for The Sydney Morning Herald:

It is the "most important meeting you've never heard of" — a behind-closed-doors battle for control of the internet that one of the web's founders fears may "put government handcuffs on the net".

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a United Nations organisation representing 193 countries, is reviewing international agreements governing telecommunications with a view to expanding its regulatory authority over the internet.

The ITU will hold a summit in Dubai in December where member countries will negotiate a treaty (last updated 24 years ago in Melbourne) that sets out regulations on how international voice, data and video traffic is handled.

The ITU, founded in 1865 at the dawn of the telegraph, presently focuses on telecommunications networks and radio frequency allocations but some members such as Russia, China and Iran will use the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) to try to expand the treaty to include internet regulation.

Secret WCIT proposals from several stakeholders have been leaked on the website WCITLeaks.org, giving rise to fears from civil liberties groups and the technology industry that the days of a free, open internet are coming to an end.

Chris Disspain, chief executive of Australian domain name administrator auDA, said moving from the current multi-stakeholder model to a government-centric UN-run model would "stifle innovation", be non-inclusive and result in new binding regulations on member governments.

"What it could mean is a whole series of ... new regulations reached by consensus or horse trading amongst governments, with no input from the community, on such things as data retention, censorship, usage, charging models, all sorts of things," Disspain told Fairfax.

Disspain, who is a member of the UN Secretary-General's Internet Governance Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group, said he was aware of European telco proposals for the ITU advocating the move to a user-pays model for services such as email.

He said at the UN, many proposals get "nodded through because people can't be bothered objecting" and there was a risk that "active governments like China and Iran and Russia" who were pushing to control the internet "may end up winning the day".  Read more »

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Read more at Sydney Morning Herald

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