This is not getting as much press as PIPA and SOPA, yet it’s urgent that people understand what is at stake: nothing less than the freedom of an open and unregulated Internet. In a few weeks, it may be too late.
So what can you do about this? You can let other people know about it.
But before you think this is a far-out political screed about how the UN is going to impose sharia law in the United States, you need to know more about a UN agency called the International Telecommunications Union, or ITU.
The ITU has been around for 150 years, when they started out establishing telegraph standards for the world. Since that time, they have become the main international agency coordinating telephone and radio interconnection standards, and officially became a part of the UN in 1947.
They never played any role in regulating the Internet. That is, until now. And what they are proposing, and we say this with no hyperbole, could fundamentally change the Internet as we know it.
The World Conference on International Telecommunications
In a few weeks, 193 member nations and hundreds of private members will meet in Dubai for the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT).
At this conference, they will vote on whether to adopt changes to the International Telecommunications Regulations, which are laws governing how countries regulate their communication systems.
The alarming part of all this is that some member nations and private members (read: representative from telecommunication giants who stand to benefit enormously if these regulations pass) have begun to lobby for giving the ITU a vast expansion of regulatory powers, including new taxes and mandatory censorship technologies (only they call them “security measures”).
Some of these proposals claim to be for combating malware and pam, but they are obviously aimed at allowing countries to censor websites they don’t want published. These proposals would allow governments to shut down the Internet if they believe it is interfering in the internal affairs of the state or that information of a sensitive nature might be leaked.
But what’s worse, all of this is being done in secret, so no one really knows which nations or members are making these proposals and who can be held accountable.
Why You Should Care
Certain UN countries such as China, Russia, and Iran are hoping to use the ITU to censor Internet content. Telecommunication companies want to use the ITU to find new ways to tax Internet content.
For those of who want to preserve an open and free Internet and believe in net neutrality, these new measures proposed by the ITU would be a disaster. Up until now, the Internet has been a beacon of self-governance. What the ITU is proposing would change all of that.
One of the proposals being considered would in effect tax popular websites, such as Google and Facebook, for reaching non-U.S. Internet users. Many think that if this tax goes into effect, these websites will simply refuse to service non-U.S. customers instead of paying the tax.
This proposal seems to be a clear attempt to get revenue from successful online service providers for already very profitable telecom companies. Others believe that if these proposals pass, religious and political websites will be shut down.