t was a unanimously 397 to 0 Vote in favour of a resolution by the US House of Representatives urging the U.S. government not to give the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union (ITU) control over the Internet. The WCIT conference that started last Monday ends on December 14.
According to the House’s website, the bill passed by the U.S. Senate in September emphasizes the importance of the Internet to the global economy, saying that “it is essential that the Internet remain stable, secure, and free from government control.”
The house’s adoption of the resolution was intended to send a clear message to the ITU a UN wing not to increase government control over the Internet during the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT)that is underway in Dubai. The the adopted bill read that the proposals by the UN body to increase control over the Internet “would undermine” the current organization of the internet “that has enabled the Internet to flourish “.
This is not the first time the House has urged the Obama’s administration in Washington to continue promoting a free universal internet devoid of any governmental control. In June, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed another resolution telling the ITU to keep its hands of the Internet.
Another government that is also wary of the ITU plans alongside the USA is the European Commission which put it clear last Friday it was opposed to increasing the ITU’s powers over the Internet during the conference, following a vote by the EU Parliament loudly calling for negotiators to block such attempts.
While many stakeholders in the Internet including companies such as Google , organisations and governments are alarmed that the ITU will increase its powers at conference, the ITU has insisted that the worried parties have not understood what the WCIT conference can decide on saying that conference cannot grant the ITU regulatory powers over the Internet, the organization emphasized on Friday, adding that “it seems the message is simply not getting through.”
Protests against the ITU’s move have also attracted support from different quaters including academia such as the Harvard Law Professor Jack Goldsmith. Goldsmith in his detailed blog post has attempted to debunk what he called pre-WCIT “hysteria”.
DotConnectAfrica had also opposed such moves. The DCA President in her commentary the “Empire Fights Back” on internet freedom and governance, Bekele stated, The battles lines are already drawn. “An open, inclusive, participatory, multi-stakeholder Internet goes beyond ordinary ‘Internet governance’, and is really about whether people should be free in a global society. It is all about the Universal Right to Freedom, and the UN, the main guarantor of Human and People’s Rights, should not be unwittingly used as a tool to rein in that sacrosanct freedom bestowed on people everywhere by a Free Internet in the name of an ITU-led and controlled Internet governance architecture. Is it not ironic that a multi-lateral UN-ITU led Internet governance process is not aimed at guaranteeing a multi-stakeholder Internet?
The Model that DCA openly support is the Multistakeholder format where everybody has a voice and stake in the governance of the internet, as fact reinforced by Bekele’s open letter to the US Senate, stating “The Internet itself has proved to be a very useful platform for bringing Africa into the mainstream of global information and communication technology usage, and its gradual and increasing availability is helping Africa to bridge the so-called ‘Digital Divide”.