The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) telecom
treaty conference in Dubai in December marked the end of international
consensus on keeping government hands off the Internet, instead "radically
ratcheting up" even more regulation.
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
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."