Subcommittee Discusses the Dangers of International Regulation of the Internet
WASHINGTON, DC - The Subcommittee on Communications and Technology today held a hearing to examine "International Proposals to Regulate the Internet." Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), chairman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, along with Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), and Ranking Member Anna Eshoo (D-CA), recently introduced a resolution, H. Con. Res. 127, to reject the proposed international takeover of the Internet that is expected to be discussed at the December World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) meetings in Dubai and preserve the current "multi-stakeholder" model of governance.
"The Internet is the single largest engine of global change since the printing press. Non-governmental institutions now manage the Internet’s core functions with input from private- and public-sector participants. Weakening the multi-stakeholder model weakens the Internet, harming its ability to spread prosperity and freedom," said Walden. "As the U.S. delegation to the WCIT takes shape, I urge the administration to continue the United States’ commitment to the Internet’s collaborative governance structure and to reject international efforts to bring the Internet under government control."
Ambassador Philip Verveer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, explained the administration’s position heading into the December meetings. He said, "In all bilateral encounters and multilateral meetings, the United States consistently opposes the extension of intergovernmental controls over the Internet. Remitting the Internet to intergovernmental control - whether the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) or otherwise - would produce two very bad outcomes. It inevitably would diminish the dynamism of the Internet. ... In addition, intergovernmental controls inevitably would open the way for the introduction of extraneous considerations, the most noxious of which would be censorship or content controls by repressive regimes."
FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell added, "As a matter of process and substance, patient and persistent incrementalism is the Net’s most dangerous enemy and it is the hallmark of many countries that are pushing the pro-regulation agenda. ... In short, the U.S. and like-minded proponents of Internet freedom and prosperity across the globe should resist efforts to expand the powers of intergovernmental bodies over the Internet even in the smallest of ways."
Bono Mack asked McDowell and Verveer what the effect of international regulation of the Internet might be on businesses. McDowell responded that, "At a minimum, it creates uncertainty and drives up costs." Watch the exchange here.
Sally Shipman Wentworth, Senior Manager of Public Policy at Internet Society, expressed concern that, "Some government proposals would threaten the viability of the existing and successful global multi-stakeholder model for standards-setting and Internet policy development, and, by extension, would pose a direct threat to the innovative, collaborative, and open nature of the Internet itself."
Vinton Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, reiterated that, "We need a global coalition to ensure transparency, openness, and an outcome that preserves the features of the Internet and its operation that have been so productive over the past 30 years."
Ambassador David A. Gross, former U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy at the U.S. Department of State, testified on behalf of the World Conference on International Telecommunications Ad Hoc Working Group and advocated for protection of the multi-stakeholder model to avoid any centralization of control over the internet. Gross said, "There should be no top down control of the Internet, directly or indirectly, associated with any international governmental institution, including the ITU."