WASHINGTON Executives were urged to join the fight to keep the Internet free from centralized control, ahead of a conference later this year where U.S. government officials fear countries will vote to give the United Nations more power over the Web.
"Get your company involved. Work to get likeminded countries involved. What is at stake here is just that important," Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence Strickling told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's telecom committee on Friday.
Delegations from 193 countries will meet in Dubai this December to renegotiate a U.N. telecommunications treaty last revisited in 1988, and debate proposals that would consolidate control over the Internet with the United Nations' International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
U.S. officials have expressed concerns that U.N. involvement could empower efforts by developing nations to tax large technology companies such as Google Inc (GOOG.O) and Facebook Inc (FB.O).
They have also warned it could aid Internet censorship by countries like China and Iran.
Private-sector members and other non-government representatives will be added in September to the core U.S. delegation of government officials going to Dubai.
"Our role in the federal government needs to be one of supporting more inclusion and standing firm against the efforts of one faction or another to... tip outcomes in their favor," said Strickling, who also heads the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
He stressed the "need to understand that an Internet constrained by an international treaty likely will stifle the innovators and entrepreneurs who are responsible for its awesome growth."
The Internet is currently policed loosely, with technical bodies such as the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the World Wide Web Consortium largely dictating its infrastructure and management.
The global system of computer networks that now reaches billions of people had its origins in U.S. government research in the 1960s.
(Reporting By Jasmin Melvin; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)