“The proponents of Internet freedom and prosperity have been asleep at the switch,” Mr. McDowell, the lone Republican serving at the FCC, told editors and reporters at The Washington Times. “Or maybe I should say asleep at the router.”The 193-member International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a U.N. agency, will meet in Dubai next December to renegotiate the 24-year-old treaty that deals with international oversight of the Internet. A growing number of countries are pushing greater governmental control and management of the Web’s availability, financial model and infrastructure.
They believe the current model is “dominated” by the U.S., and want to “take that control and power away,” Mr. McDowell said. China and Russia support the effort, but so do non-Western U.S. allies such as Brazil, South Africa and India.
“Thus far, those who are pushing for new intergovernmental powers over the Internet are far more energized and organized than those who favor the Internet freedom and prosperity,” he said.
While growth of the Internet has exploded under a minimal regulatory model over the past two decades, “significant government and civil society support is developing for a different policy outlook,” according to an analysis by lawyers David Gross and M. Ethan Lucarelli on the legal intelligence website www.lexology.com.
“Driven largely by the global financial troubles of recent years, together with persistent concerns about the implications of the growth of the Internet for national economies, social structures and cultures, some governments and others are now actively reconsidering the continuing viability of liberalization and competition-based policies,” they wrote.
A bad treaty - which would need the support of only a bare majority of U.N. members to pass and which the United States could not veto - could bring “a whole parade of problems,”
“They’re very well aware of it,” Mr. McDowell said. “The Obama administration is in the right position. But my concern is that we’re behind the curve.”The FCC commissioner said he is trying to sound the alarm about the U.N. effort because he believes the Internet has thrived precisely because of the absence of central government control.
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