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US lawmakers want to promote a ‘global internet free from government control’

A recent UN conference held in Dubai has ratified efforts by certain players against an open and free internet.

According to Bloomberg, a joint hearing by three US House committees discussed the conference and accompanying treaty yesterday.

There Robert McDowell, member of the US Federal Communications, stated that “the internet is quite simply under assault”.

He is quite right. Eighty-nine countries have signed the pact, according to a House Energy and Commerce Committee memorandum, led by none other than Russia and China.

The treaty’s regulations were updated by the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in a hope to get more delegations on board but no fewer than 55 opposed, including the US, Canada, Australia, the UK.

New language, threatening government censorship and regulation of the internet, is at the core of their refusal.

“The idea that the UN ought to be controlling the internet to me is like putting the Taliban in charge of women’s rights,” said Representative Ted Poe, a Texas Republican, at the hearing.

The House lawmakers have reacted with intention to draft legislation making it US policy to promote a “global internet free from government control”, stated Representative Greg Walden (an Oregon Republican). The goal is to keep the current model of web governance which focuses on decentralization.

The treaty doesn’t take effect until January 2015, so there is still time for it to go either way, but it is clear that countries like the US have to keep fighting as future ITU conferences have been planned in Geneva this year, and South Korea in 2014.

Representative Anna Eshoo (California Democrat) said at the hearing that “we have to have a strategy for engaging developing countries”, especially those “nations who do not share our vision for maintaining the free flow of information across the internet.”

ITU secretary-general, Hamadoun Toure, differed in opinion at the Dubai conference. He does not believe the legislation would increase government control of the internet and said there were no provisions on web regulation in the pact.

Technology giant Google is also opposed to the treaty.

Author | Ronan Steyn: Staff Reporter

Ronan Steyn: Staff Reporter
Ronan Steyn has a love for all things technology, with a particular focus on startups, gadgets and games. When not writing the good write, he can be found making films or purveying the latest gadget, game or film. At night he attempts an MA in Screenwriting at UCT. A... More

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