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McDowell Raises Concern over Global Internet Policy

03.29.2012

The consensus-based multi-stakeholder process that currently governs the Internet is under threat, Federal Communications Commissioner Robert McDowell told a Media Institute luncheon today.

Countries in the developing world are seeking to centralize Internet governance in the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), an agency that is focused on regulating telephone connections between countries and operated under the auspices of the United Nations.

McDowell listed several reasons why developing and emerging countries want to give the ITU centralized power of the Internet.

  • The ITU wants relevance.
  • The Internet is seen by the International community as being dominated by the United States.
  • Some countries with state-owned ISPs want to be able to charge application companies, many of which are based in the United States, for using data on their networks.

The issue, which has ramifications for cybersecurity, privacy and domain naming systems, has not garnered much media coverage in recent years. But that could change in the months running up to a critical December meeting in Dubai where ITU members are set to renegotiate the 1988 treaty that presently forms the basis of global Internet governance.

“This process had been going on for years,” McDowell said. “But this time it seems real.”  

To read Commissioner McDowell’s Wall Street Journal op-ed outlining his views on the need to pay attention to the negotiations, click here.

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