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Initiative to allow UN to Control, Tax, and Regulate the Internet Gains Momentum

October 13th 2012

Russian computer user

U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer warned on Friday that a proposal to give a United Nations agency more control over the Internet is gaining momentum in other countries. Proposals to expand the U.N.'s International Telecommunications Union's (ITU) authority over the Internet could come up at a treaty conference in Dubai in December. European telecommunications companies are pushing a plan that would create new rules that would allow them to charge more to carry international traffic.

The proposal by the European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association could force websites like Google, Facebook and Netflix to pay fees to network operators around the world.

Kramer said the idea of an international Internet fee is "gaining more interest in the African states and also in the Arab states." He said the United States delegation to the conference will have to redouble its efforts to convince other countries that the proposal would only stifle innovation and economic growth. "We support efforts to grow broadband markets—not just divvying a static pie of revenue between operators and governments," Kramer said in a speech in Washington hosted by the Telecommunications Industry Association.

Democrats and Republicans in the United States are united against proposals to increase international control of the Internet. Congress passed a non-binding resolution earlier this year urging the United States delegation to "promote a global Internet free from government control and preserve and advance the successful multistakeholder model that governs the Internet today."

But Kramer warned that the United States is gaining a reputation of stubbornly opposing any changes to the ITU treaty. He said the United States will have to engage in negotiations with other countries to address their concerns. He acknowledged that many countries are struggling to secure their networks from hackers and cybercriminals. He said the United States opposes international cybersecurity regulation but supports efforts to help poorer countries expand their ability to combat cyberthreats. "The U.S. is open to dialogue in ways to make such cooperation more comprehensive, building on work by existing institutions," he said.

Kramer explained that the United States will not have to sign on to any treaty that it objects to, but he warned that if a majority of countries at the Dubai conference adopt an overly regulatory treaty, it could reshape the open, international nature of the Internet.

Brendan Sasso writes for The Hill, from where this article is adapted.


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