House resolution urges U.S. to stand firm against U.N. Internet power grab

House resolution urges Obama to stand firm against U.N. Internet power grab

The fight against forthcoming attempts by international governments to seize greater control over the global Internet continued this morning with the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s passage of a resolution that pushes Obama administration to remain firmly opposed to such attempts.

Introduced by U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), H. Con. Res 127, which passed with strong bi-partisan support, comes in response to reported efforts from countries including Russia and China to give greater regulatory powers over the Web to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a wing of the United Nations that oversees global communications, like long-distance telephone service, but does not currently have any jurisdiction over the Internet. Proposals to grant more power to the ITU are expected to come up for discussion, and possibly a vote, by the ITU’s 193 member states at the World Conference on Telecommunications (WCIT), which will take place in Dubai this December.

H. Con. Res. 127 now has 58 co-sponsors, and will soon head for a vote before the full House. Read the full text of the resolution here (pdf).

What’s at stake

If adopted, these proposals would allegedly give the ITU broad powers to govern cybersecurity, the Internet address system, Web standards, and data privacy. They would also give individual governments the ability to more tightly control how the Internet operates in their respective countries. Individual government would also gain the ability to tax Internet content providers, like Google, Apple, and others, for their use of bandwidth in their country.

Currently, Internet governance operates under a decentralized, “multi-stakeholder” system, with a variety of nonprofit organizations — not governments — setting Web standards, controlling IP addresses, and performing other critical functions. That said, these organizations — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), to name a few — often take cues from the U.S. government. Russia, China, Brazil, India, and other ITU member states want to wrest control from the U.S., arguing that the Internet is a global phenomenon, not an American one.

Not surprisingly, interested parties in the U.S. — from corporations to politicians on both sides of the aisle — are all firmly against changing the status quo. And for good reason.

“Despite denials, the Russians and Chinese are working quietly behind the scenes – and have been for years – to exert control over Web content and infrastructure,” said Bono Mack in a statement after the House committee vote. “This could lead to human rights abuses in the future and effectively putting a spigot on the free flow of information. We can’t let that happen.”

In prepared remarks made prior to the vote, Bono Mack said, “In many ways, we’re facing a referendum on the future of the Internet. A vote for my resolution is a vote to keep the Internet free from government control and to prevent Russia, China, and other nations from succeeding in giving the U.N. unprecedented power over Web content and infrastructure. That’s the quickest way for the Internet to one day become a wasteland of unfilled hopes, dreams, and opportunities.”

Don’t believe the hype

Contrary to all these warnings, the ITU claims that everyone has the situation all wrong. “I’d be surprised if you could find anything that would support these sorts of allegations,” said ITU spokesperson Sarah Parkes in a recent interview with Talking Points Memo. “Internet governance is not an issue at this conference. Some of it will concern things like exchange, routing and roaming rates,” she added, saying that such proposals would have to be approved by nearly all of the ITU’s member states to go into effect.

Parker further added that the best way to clear up the misconceptions is for those involved to have more open communications. The problem is, the entire WCIT (pronounced “wick-it”) process is secret. The tight-lipped operation has even spawned the creation of WCITLeaks.org, a site where anonymous tipsters can post documents related to the upcoming negotiations. Of the documents already posted, it is clear that ITU member states are, in fact, pushing for the ITU to gain greater control of the Internet. Parker called WCITLeaks “very amusing.”

Last word

Even if the proposals are as bad as those in Congress believe, the U.S. could still refuse to abide by the amended ITU treaty. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t make much of a difference, since other countries would recognize it, and the same problem of greater government control of the Internet would still exist.

Furthermore, it IS wrong to think of this as a U.S. vs. the world battle. As Eli Dourado, a technology policy research fellow at Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and a co-creator of WCITLeaks explains in a blog post on Tech Liberation: “This is an Internet users vs. their governments issue. Who benefits from increased ITU oversight of the Internet? Certainly not ordinary users in foreign countries, who would then be censored and spied upon by their governments with full international approval. The winners would be autocratic regimes, not their subjects.”

Dourado goes on to point out that the U.S. should not just walk away from the WCIT negotiations in order to maintain its current control of the Web. Instead, “the U.S. should walk away from WCIT as part of a repentant rejection of Internet policy under Bush and Obama, which has consistently carved out a greater role for the government online.” And that is the real point of all this — keeping the overreaching, grubby mitts of government off our Web.

Social Media

‘Superwoman’ YouTuber Lilly Singh taking a break for her mental health

Claiming to be "mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted," popular YouTuber Lilly Singh has told her millions of fans she's taking a break from making videos in order to recuperate.

T-Mobile-Sprint merger could close as early as first quarter of 2019, exec says

T-Mobile and Sprint are finally merging. After a few failed attempts, the two companies announced their merger at the start of 2018. Once it's complete, the new T-Mobile could be better positioned to take on the likes of Verizon and AT&T.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this fall with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Castle Rock'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we've put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.
Smart Home

Amazon has a huge team dedicated to enhancing Alexa and Echo

An Amazon executive on Tuesday, November 13 revealed the huge size of the team that's tasked with developing the Echo, the company's smart speaker, and Alexa, the digital assistant that powers it.

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Social Media

Going incognito: Here's how to appear offline on Facebook

How do you make sure your friends and family can't see if you're on Facebook, even if you are? Here, we'll show you how to turn off your active status on three different platforms, so you can browse Facebook without anyone knowing.

Our 10 favorite Chrome themes add some much-needed pizzazz to your boring browser

Sometimes you just want Chrome to show a little personality and ditch the grayscale for something a little more lively. Lucky for you, we've sorted through the Chrome Web Store to find best Chrome themes available.

Aussies hope free Wi-Fi on their beaches will lead to fewer drownings

Lifeguards in Australia have hit on an idea to use Wi-Fi to make the nation's beaches safer. It's a simple but clever idea that plays on our need to stay connected around the clock.

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.

These are the coolest games you can play on your Google Chrome browser right now

Not only is Google Chrome a fantastic web browser, it's also a versatile gaming platform that you can access from just about anywhere. Here are a few of our favorite titles for the platform.
Smart Home

Amazon will bring a 7-foot-tall Christmas tree to your doorstep starting today

If you have fond memories of going out with your family and searching for the perfect Christmas tree, well, Amazon wants to create its own holiday tradition. Starting today, you can order a real, 7-foot tree from Amazon.