* U.S. to participate in telecom treaty talks in December
* U.S. to fight giving UN more control over Internet
* Lawmakers show bipartisan agreement
By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON, May 31 U.S. lawmakers on Thursday
said they are united when it comes to keeping the Internet free
from centralized control and preventing the United Nations from
gaining power over Web content and infrastructure.
The U.S. government wants to bring as much ammunition as
possible to a December meeting in Dubai where delegations from
193 countries will discuss whether to hand governance of the
Internet over to the United Nations.
The United States fears December's treaty-writing conference
could turn the Internet into a political bargaining chip and
could empower efforts by countries like China, Russia and Iran
to erode Internet freedoms and isolate their populations.
"We may have our differences on domestic telecommunications
policy, but having those policies decided at the international
level would be the worst thing that could happen,"
Representative Marsha Blackburn said at a hearing before a House
Energy and Commerce subcommittee.
The Tennessee Republican commended the Obama
administration's efforts to thwart giving an international
governing body power over the Internet.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday introduced a
resolution to reject the proposed international takeover of the
Internet and preserve the current "multi-stakeholder" model of
"In many ways, this is a referendum on the future of the
Internet," Republican Representative Mary Bono Mack said at
"If this power grab is successful, I'm concerned that the
next Arab Spring will instead become a Russia Winter where free
speech is chilled, not encouraged, and the Internet becomes a
wasteland of unfilled hopes, dreams and opportunities," said
Bono Mack, a sponsor of the resolution.
Social media sites Twitter, Facebook and Google's
YouTube played a big role in last year's "Arab Spring"
The Internet is currently policed loosely, with technical
bodies such as the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet
Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and the World Wide
Web Consortium largely dictating its infrastructure and
management. The United States holds significant sway with those
When the delegations gather in Dubai in December, they will
renegotiate a U.N. treaty last revisited in 1988, and debate
proposals that would consolidate control over the Internet with
the United Nations' International Telecommunications Union
"During the treaty negotiations, the most lethal threat to
Internet freedom may not come from a full-frontal assault but
through insidious and seemingly innocuous expansions of
inter-governmental powers," said Federal Communications
Commissioner Robert McDowell.
Proposals out of the Middle East, McDowell said, would
change the definition of telecommunications in a way that
arguably would include the Internet, and would suddenly sweep an
entire industry into the rubric of ITU rules.
The Republican commissioner blasted claims from ITU
leadership that no nations have proposed expanding the ITU's
jurisdiction to the Internet.
"An infinite number of avenues exist to accomplish the same
goal, and it is camouflaged subterfuge that proponents of
Internet freedom should watch for most vigilantly," he said.
The lawmakers fear that countries like China, Russia, Iran,
Saudi Arabia and others could politick smaller nations who have
little interest in the issue to back them in giving them greater
ability to isolate their populations and silence political
The United States fears that authoritarian regimes will
campaign for their initiatives by promising to back proposals
from developing countries that would like to see tariffs on
content-heavy Internet companies such as Google, Facebook and
"Some ITU officials have dismissed our concerns over these
issues as mere election year politics, and nothing could be
further from the truth," McDowell said. "The threats are real
and not imagined."