A U.N.-sponsored conference next month in Dubai will propose new regulations and restrictions for the Internet, which critics say will censor free speech, levy tariffs on e-commerce, and even force companies to clean up their “e-waste” and make gadgets that are better for the environment.
Concerns about the closed-door event have sparked a Wikileaks-style info-leaking site, and led the State Department on Wednesday to file a series of new proposals or tranches seeking to ensure “competition and commercial agreements -- and not regulation” as the meeting's main message.
Terry Kramer, the chief U.S. envoy to the conference, says the United States is against sanctions and believes management of the Internet by one central organization goes against free speech.
“[Doing nothing] would not be a terrible outcome at all,” Kramer said recently. “We need to avoid suffocating the Internet space through well-meaning but overly prescriptive proposals that would seek to control content.”
The conference will be run by the International Telecommunications Union (ITC), a U.N. agency that has typically provided a welcome service by making sure that the Internet works across countries. Many of its guidelines were first instituted in 1988. Most haven’t changed since then.
The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) is the first such meeting since those guidelines were created, and businesses are taking it seriously: U.S. delegates will include representatives from AT&T, Cisco, Facebook, GoDaddy, and dozens more.
To dispel concerns, the ITU played damage control in early October.
“There are no proposals submitted to create new international regulatory agencies, or mechanisms, and hence no proposals to put ITU in control of the Internet!” said Malcolm Johnson, ITU's telecommunication standardization bureau director, in a written statement.