Int'l proposals for U.N. Internet regulations draws bipartisan rebuke

In a rare display of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill, a House committee is poised to approve a resolution urging President Barack Obama and his administration to help preserve the open Internet by rejecting calls for international regulation of the Web.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee's unbinding resolution outlines congressional lawmakers' clear opposition to international efforts for the United Nations to regulate the Internet.

Proposals include putting the U.N.'s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in charge of cybersecurity, Internet data privacy and technical standards of the web.

Proposals on Internet governance will be among items discussed at the December World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai. Although the WCIT process is supposed to be done in secret, some of the proposals by the 193 ITU member-nations have been leaked.

For instance, a coalition led by China and Russia has proposed that powers the ITU already has over international telephone traffic should be extended to provide oversight of Internet traffic.

Meanwhile, the European Telecommunications Network Operators (ETNO) has called for the amending of an existing telecommunications treaty to allow for a sending-party tax on Internet content providers.

The Brussels-based lobby group has argued that online content providers should help defray operators' costs of maintaining and building networks that allow the sites to reach overseas customers.

Likely targets would be U.S. Web content behemoths: Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), social-networking site Facebook (Nasdaq: FB), Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) and the movie streaming service Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX).

First reported June 7 by CNET, the tax proposal was drafted by the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association (ETNO), a Brussels-based lobby group representing companies in 35 nations that wants the ITU to mandate these fees.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Communications Subcommittee, said the proposals "threaten the innovation, openness and transparency enjoyed by Internet users around the world."

"In addition to imposing new regulations on broadband services, several nations, including Russia, China, and Iran, are set on asserting intergovernmental control over the Internet leading to a balkanized Internet where censorship could become the new norm," Eshoo said in a statement.

The House resolution, offered by Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), is co-sponsored by 49 of the 54 members of the Commerce committee, acknowledging that, "The structure of Internet governance has profound implications for competition and trade, democratization, free expression, and access to information."

The resolution--H.Con.Res. 127--states unequivocally that the Internet should be free of international regulation, and that the United States should remain committed to the current principles of a decentralized, multi-stakeholder approach to Web governance.

After all, they said, it is that model that has enabled the Internet to "flourish and under which the private sector, civil society, academia, and individual users play an important role in charting its direction."

For more:
 - read the resolution text
 - read the CNET story

Related articles:
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Apple, Google threatened by global Internet tax
ETNO vies for less stringent regulations
EU reaches agreement on proposed telecom rules