McDowell: Internet Is Under Assault and Inaction Is Not an Option
Plans to tell Congress Dubai treaty conference was step toward Russia's goal of international Internet control
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/4/2013 4:11:37 PM
That is the message from FCC commissioner Robert McDowell to Congress, according to his prepared testimony for an unusual three-way joint House subcommittee hearing on international Internet governance post-Dubai.
"[I]n 2011, then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin summed it up best when he declared that his goal, and that of his allies, was to establish 'international control over the Internet' through the ITU," says McDowell. "Last month in Dubai, Putin largely achieved his goal."
Talking about the forces being applied to that "one-way ratchet, he said: "Proponents of multilateral intergovernmental control of the Internet are patient and persistent incrementalists who will never relent until their ends are achieved."
McDowell is a longstanding critic of international efforts to regulate the Internet. He was at the Dubai conference after having spoken for many months about the dangers of allowing the telecom treaty to become a lever for those "ends," including replacing dwindling phone interconnection revs with Internet connection bucks, or to using the treaties to boost their power to censor the Web.
He talks of his conversations with foreign governments looking to tap into the big pockets of some of the Internet's biggest players, including "the creation of an international universal service fund of sorts whereby foreign -- usually state-owned -- telecom companies would use international mandates to charge certain Web destinations on a "per-click" basis to fund the build-out of broadband infrastructure across the globe. Google, iTunes, Facebook and Netflix are mentioned most often as prime sources of funding."
And while he applauded the U.S. decision not to sign onto the Dubai treaty changes because they introduced Internet language into the mix, he says that is not enough. "Merely saying 'no' to any changes is -- quite obviously -- a losing proposition," he says. [T]herefore we should work to offer alternate proposals such as improving the longstanding and highly successful, non-governmental, multistakeholder model of Internet governance to include those who may feel disenfranchised."
McDowell is already looking ahead, and sees the 2014 plenipotentiary meeting of the ITU as both a threat and an opportunity. "While we debate what to do next, Internet freedom's foes around the globe are working hard to exploit a treaty negotiation that dwarfs the importance of the WCIT by orders of magnitude. In 2014, the ITU will conduct what is literally a constitutional convention [that] will define the ITU's mission for years to come."
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