News Stories

Putting Controls on the Internet

The internet is the worldwide voice of freedom and this makes some governments and institutions nervous. But other people are still fighting to keep it free: An international meeting has been scheduled to redraft the 1988 treaty that governs the UN's International Telecommunications Union (ITU). These delegates are trying to EXPAND the regulations that were developed for an earlier internet age, 24 years ago.

In the November 29th edition of the Financial Times, Richard Waters, Daniel Thomas and James Fontanella-Khan quote EU digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes as saying, "There is a real battle about how to govern the internet."

One sticking point is the high revenue that some sites, such as Google and Facebook, pull in. Under a proposal put forward by India and other countries from the Middle East and Africa, some internet companies could be forced to pay a higher fee to telecom networks in other countries that carry their traffic. Shifting some of the huge profits from these companies to the countries they operate in would pay for much-needed upgrades in wifi availability.

The authors quote US representative to the conference Terry Kramer as saying, "Anything that sets up economic hurdles will slow traffic," and that will harm, rather than help, developing nations.

A range of other proposed rules, ostensibly designed to do everything from fight spam to ensure the quality of service of internet traffic, could be used by individual governments to control communications and weed out specific content they want to block.

The authors quote US ambassador to the EU Willam Kennard as saying, "There is the specter that some governments will seize on these proposals for all the wrong reasons because they want more control of the internet for anti-democratic ends."

They quote Secretary-general of the ITU Hamadoun Toure as saying, "You cannot have winners and losers. Freedom of the internet cannot be taken away."

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