Commissioner Robert McDowell told Congress that there should be no doubt of the
bipartisan resolve to resist effort by the International Telecommunications
Union to expand its authority over Internet governance, a threat he said is
real and "lethal" to Internet freedom.
McDowell has been drawing attention to the
issue in speeches and interviews over the past few months,
and plans to tell Congress that the dismissal by some ITU official of U.S. concerns as election-year
politicking "could not be further from the truth."
That is according to his prepared testimony
for a hearing in the House Energy & Commerce Committee Communications
Subcommittee Thursday on "International Proposals to Regulate the
McDowell says the ITU proposal is a threat,
and an imminent one given the planned renegotiation next December of the 1988
treaty that insulated the net from economic and technological regulation.
"What proponents of Internet freedom do or don't do between now and then
will determine the fate of the Net, affect global economic growth and determine
whether political liberty can proliferate," he agues.
He also says the most "lethal"
threat may not be a frontal assault but an attack on the foundation via
"seemingly innocuous expansions of intergovernmental power." McDowell
says that has already begun through a form of double-speak. "While
influential ITU Member States have put forth proposals calling for overt legal
expansions of United Nations' or ITU authority over the Net, ITU officials have
publicly declared that the ITU does not intend to regulate Internet governance
while also saying that any regulations should be of the "light-touch"
variety," says McDowell. "But which is it? It is not possible to
insulate the Internet from new rules while also establishing a new 'light
touch' regulatory regime."
He also warns of a potential Trojan Horse with
a Cossack astride it. Some ITU officials have been opining that the world could
be running out of phone numbers, and the Russian Federation has proposed giving ITU
jurisdiction over IP addresses -- VOIP services like Skyle and Google voice
translate traditional numbers into those addresses -- to help remedy the
problem, he says. "What is left unsaid," McDowell points out, leaving
it unsaid no longer, "is that potential ITU jurisdiction over IP addresses
would enable it to regulate Internet services and devices with abandon."
He also points to efforts by Arab States to
change the definition of telecom to include computer processing, and China's desire to have
Internet users registered by IP address.
McDowell also says that foreign government
officials have personally proposed creating a Universals Service Fund for
global broadband infrastructure build-outs using money collected from Web
destinations including big-pocketed players like Google, Facebook, and Netflix
on a per-click basis.