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Republicans Plan Symbolic Vote Against U.N., Governmental Regulation of Internet

Tuesday, June 26, 2012
By Paul Barbagallo

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is planning to hold a markup June 20 on a resolution urging the White House to oppose efforts by some countries to give the United States more regulatory control over the internet.

The resolution (H. Con. Res. 127), sponsored by Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), chair of the House subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, calls on the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the State Department to “continue working … to promote a global internet free from government control and preserve and advance the successful multistakeholder model that governs the internet today.”

The bill has broad support from Republicans and Democrats on the committee, and is expected to pass easily.

Passage of the measure in the House and Senate will be critical as member countries of the International Telecommunications Union, including the United States, prepare to meet in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to renegotiate a U.N. treaty called the International Telecommunications Regulations, which was written in 1988 when the internet was barely in its infancy.

“We need to provide the [U.S.] delegation with a clear and unmistakable mandate: Keep the internet free of international regulation,” said Bono Mack in her opening statement on the resolution June 19. “In many ways we've facing a referendum on the future of the internet.”

Greater Oversight Planned.
At the U.N. conference in December, China, Russia, and other countries are expected to formally propose treaty language to give the ITU, a U.N. agency, greater oversight over three specific “multistakeholder” groups: the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which oversees domain name administration for the world's dot-coms and dot-orgs; the Internet Society, which provides guidance to nations on internet standards, education, and policy; and the Internet Engineering Task Force, which oversees the underlying functioning of the internet.

So far, the Obama administration is opposed to expanding the ITRs to include internet regulations.

U.S. delegates are hoping to use the talks leading up to the year-end summit to highlight the benefits of the existing model of internet governance, in which governments, private companies, and independent organizations all play key roles--voluntarily--and apart from any one law, treaty, or international regulator.

“One of the bright spots of our economy has been the technology arena,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), “… because governments haven't figured out how to regulate the internet.”

Scalise said some countries' motivations may be to stifle speech on the internet and punish U.S. tech companies. The internet-based economy is perceived as increasingly a U.S.-based economy, he said.

“We've see a lot of anti-American activities coming out of the UN … and this is one of them,” Scalise said.


For the text of the resolution, visit http://republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/Media/file/Hearings/Telecom/20120531/BILLS-112hconres127ih.pdf.

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