Vint Cerf is critical of plans by various countries over a battle for the internet that is opening at the International Telecommunications Union in this opinion piece in the New York Times.
Cerf writes that the ITU “is conducting a review of the international agreements governing telecommunications and aims to expand its regulatory authority to the Internet at a summit scheduled for December in Dubai.”
“Such a move holds potentially profound — and I believe potentially hazardous — implications for the future of the Internet and all of its users.”
Cerf says the secret of the internet’s success is that “governments — for the most part — allowed the Internet to grow organically, with civil society, academia, private sector and voluntary standards bodies collaborating on development, operation and governance.”
“In contrast, the ITU creates significant barriers to civil society participation.”
Cerf goes on to say that “while many governments are committed to maintaining flexible regimes for fast-moving internet technologies, some others have been quite explicit about their desire to put a single U.N. or other intergovernmental body in control of the Net.”
Some of the proposals for ITU governance have surfaced from within the organisation, including that “several authoritarian regimes reportedly would ban anonymity from the Web, which would make it easier to find and arrest dissidents. Others have suggested moving the privately run system that manages domain names and Internet addresses to the United Nations.”
“Such proposals raise the prospect of policies that enable government controls but greatly diminish the ‘permissionless innovation’ that underlies extraordinary Internet-based economic growth to say nothing of trampling human rights.”
Cerf encourages people “to take action now: Insist that the debate about internet governance be transparent and open to all stakeholders.”
Vint Cerf’s article, Keep the Internet Open, can be read in full on The New York Times website by going to www.nytimes.com/2012/05/25/opinion/keep-the-internet-open.html.
There have also been a couple of articles in Forbes on the issue. One, is by Scott Cleland, President of Precursor LLC and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests and who during the George H.W. Bush Administration, Cleland served as Deputy United States Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy.
Cleland writes that “any attempt to remake the Internet in the ITU’s image – “the ITUnet” – is pure folly. The essence of the Internet is that it is voluntary; no entity mandated it or controls it. People, companies, entities and nations all voluntarily have chosen to use the Internet because it is the best at what it does.”
“The folly here is that the ITU does not understand the voluntary nature of the Internet or how the Internet really operates and evolves – because the bottom-up collaborative Internet is the antithesis of top-down governmental command and control.”
On the domain name system, Cleland says it “rapidly became universal precisely because people voluntarily recognized its essential value and adopted it. No country owns, controls, or approves Internet’s addresses; it’s a collaborative, consensus-based, multi-stakeholder process. The World Wide Web became the third voluntary leg of Internet universality, because it offered a universal application to enable people to get to and display most any kind of Internet content available. With the Internet, the best ideas and innovations win on merit not coercion.”
“Those imagining the ITU can assert authority over the Internet simply don’t understand how the Internet works. They desperately want to believe the Internet operates like last century’s telephone networks because that’s what they know and that’s what they want it to be, so that they can tax and regulate it to redistribute revenues.”
Cleland’s article, The ‘ITUnet’ Folly: Why The UN Will Never Control The Internet, is available to be read in full at www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/05/24/the-itunet-folly-why-the-un-will-never-control-the-internet.
However taking a contrary view of the ITU’s intention, also in Forbes, is Adam Thierer, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University where he works with the Technology Policy Program.
Thierer writes that “in the short term, however, this threat is somewhat overstated. There’s no way the U.N. could “take over the Net.” It’s a technical impossibility. The Internet’s infrastructure and governance structure are both too decentralized for any one global entity to take control.”
To read Thierer’s Forbes article, Does the Internet Need a Global Regulator?, in full, go to: