US rejects proposal to put Internet under UN control

May 31, 2012
The world is displayed on a computer screen via Google Earth. US officials, lawmakers and technology leaders offered a resounding "no" Thursday to proposals to bring the Internet under United Nations' control and said they would lead efforts to stop the move.

US officials, lawmakers and technology leaders voiced firm opposition Thursday to efforts to bring the Internet under UN control, saying it could hurt free expression and commerce.

At a congressional hearing, the comments were united in opposition to place the Internet under the jurisdiction of the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency which governs telecom systems.

"There's a strong, bipartisan consensus within the (US) administration and Congress that we must resist efforts from some countries to impose a top-down governance of the Internet," Representative Henry Waxman told the hearing.

Congresswoman Doris Matsui added that "any international authority over the Internet is troublesome, particularly if that effort is being led by countries where censorship is the norm."

A top State Department official, in prepared remarks, reaffirmed the opposition of the Obama administration to UN governance of the Internet.

"In all bilateral encounters and multilateral meetings, the United States consistently opposes the extension of intergovernmental controls over the Internet," said Philip Verveer, deputy assistant secretary of state and coordinator for IT policy, saying this would lead to "very bad outcomes."

"It inevitably would diminish the dynamism of the Internet," he said.

Verveer told lawmakers that UN control would possibly "aid in censorship and repression" in some countries.

The comments come ahead of a meeting in December of the ITU where some nations will be pressing for the agency to formally govern the Internet.

Some nations, including Russia and China, say the Internet is still controlled by the United States and that a UN effort would give a greater voice to the developing world.

"Father of the Internet" and Google scientist Vint Cerf in Hong Kong in 2011. Cerf said Thursday that proposals to bring the Internet under United Nations' control "holds profound -- and I believe potentially hazardous -- implications for the future of the Internet and all of its users".

But many in the US fear a UN-governed Internet would give authoritarian nations the power to throttle free speech, and allow others to impose tariff or other restrictions.

The Internet is currently a loosely governed network, with an address system managed by a nonprofit association that was recently opened to include nongovernment groups and other organizations around the world.

A staff memo to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which called Thursday's hearing, said handing over the Internet to the UN "could jeopardize not only its vibrancy, but also the economic and social benefits it brings to the world."

Vint Cerf, a computer scientist often called the "father of the Internet," who is now Google's "chief Internet evangelist," also expressed concern about the proposal.

"The Internet's success has generated a worrying desire by some countries' governments to create new international rules that would jeopardize the network's innovative evolution and its multi-faceted success," he said in prepared remarks.

A move to UN control, he said, "holds profound -- and I believe potentially hazardous -- implications for the future of the Internet and all of its users. If all of us do not pay attention to what is going on, users worldwide will be at risk of losing the open and free Internet that has brought so much to so many."

Sally Shipman Wentworth of the Internet Society, an advisory panel, said the current system works well, and that UN governance "could lead to a more fragmented, less interoperable global network."

US Federal Communications Commissioner Robert McDowell said the proposals represent threats to the Internet.

"For many years now, scores of countries led by China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and many others, have pushed for, as then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said almost a year ago, 'international control of the Internet' through the ITU," he told the panel.

"Such a scenario would be devastating to global economic activity, but it would hurt the developing world the most."

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User comments : 12

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Feldagast
3.5 / 5 (11) May 31, 2012
Well if Russia and China aren't happy they are free to create their own and cut themselves off from the rest of us.
tadchem
5 / 5 (6) May 31, 2012
What they are NOT saying is that National Security currently depends heavily on the use of an unimpeded Internet, and the various security agencies in the US will not accept UN or foreign control of that Internet under ANY circumstances.
Eikka
1.8 / 5 (5) May 31, 2012
we must resist efforts from some countries to impose a top-down governance of the Internet


Oh yeah? Then what are ICANN and IANA? (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, Internet Assigned Numbers Authority)

Without those two, the internet would descend into chaos, because they are the top down authorities that manage which IP number blocks are handed to which ISP everywhere around the world so the whole system wouldn't fall into anarchy. Thanks to the inherent flaws in the TCP/IP protocols, the internet isn't truly limitless and decentralized.

Both are de facto under US control.
kaasinees
1.6 / 5 (7) May 31, 2012
The internet can work fine without DNS/IP controlled by ICANN.

Though it will be a pain in the ass to remember ipv6 addresses they can still be maintained by ISPs or other instances than ICANN.
Eikka
2.8 / 5 (4) May 31, 2012
The internet can work fine without DNS/IP controlled by ICANN.

Though it will be a pain in the ass to remember ipv6 addresses they can still be maintained by ISPs or other instances than ICANN.


It can't, actually, because the routing gets difficult if you don't know who uses which IP adresses/blocks and where. The point is, that you need a single authority to basically manage how the internet is wired up, because of the way it works, and that authority is in US hands at the moment. They're being hypocritical, because they are themselves censoring the internet.

Here's a good document on the issues of TCP/IP http://www.ionary...dTCP.pdf
SmaryJerry
not rated yet May 31, 2012
China already has it's own version of the internet that is incompatible with everyone else's. We can comunicate with China with huge latency. Just try to video chat with someone in China. Even if you both have amazing connections you will struggle. The internet isn't something you can control either. I mean it isn't just one thing it is a group. Basically if they tried to govern the internet they would be trying to govern every communication everyone makes. Long distance communications aren't that complicated, whoever sends the communication is still responsible for it as if they had spoken it out of their mouth to a person standing next to them.
Russkiycremepuff
1.6 / 5 (7) May 31, 2012
"For many years now, scores of countries led by China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and many others, have pushed for, as then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said almost a year ago, 'international control of the Internet' through the ITU," he told the panel. - article -

Many Russians do not wish to have the internet controlled by anyone. We understand and appreciate the wonderful dissemination of news in particular that we would not be able to access due to our living abroad away from our home land. I am certain that our President will be made to understand the greatest value of the internet as means of our connection to each other for the communications. Perhaps someone has given him wrong information, but that can be quickly remedied.
Jotaf
5 / 5 (1) May 31, 2012
I think the crucial point is that ICANN is largely apolitical and has shown to have a very hands-off approach. The UN, on the other hand, will have no problem bringing the hammer down depending on which direction the wind blows. (I think the UN has its role elsewhere, however.)
CardacianNeverid
3 / 5 (2) Jun 01, 2012
But many in the US fear a UN-governed Internet would give authoritarian nations the power to throttle free speech, and allow others to impose tariff or other restrictions -article

Mwahahahaha! You mean not like the US does currently under the auspices of the copyright cartels?
Dichotomy
2.4 / 5 (5) Jun 01, 2012
One point worth mentioning is that at the UN countries who support oppression of the masses (China and Russia) are wielding their influence to enable Syria to commit the atrocities currently taking place there. Should the internet pass to the U.N. I would expect those countries to use their influence to continue enabling oppression.
krundoloss
1 / 5 (3) Jun 01, 2012
What is so bad about the internet as it is now? What do they want to control? Freedom of speech and freedom of information should be granted to everyone! Authoritarian governments fear revolt, but people have a right to revolt! Kill them all if you dont want them to be free, but they will and should be free! Oppression should not be tolerated in any nation.
Eikka
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 02, 2012
Well, they're omitting the fact that United States, as a permanent member of the UN security council, has the right to veto decisions.

The difference between a UN controlled internet, and a US controlled internet is, that other permanent members like Russia and China would also have the right to veto decisions regarding the internet.

As it stands now, the US owns ICANN/IANA and can do whatever it wants with them without asking anyone.