Free And Open Internet Debate Begins Today
December 3, 2012

The Great Worldwide Internet Debate Of Dubai

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

An 11-day UN conference opens in Dubai today which will play host to some extensive debates from the world´s leaders as to how to govern the Internet. The goal is to update some rather outdated regulations to ensure each nation has similar access to the Internet. Some US tech companies – Google and Microsoft – as well as some US ambassadors are worried these regulations will signal the end of the “free and open” Internet of today. Today, a group of 123 US delegates will head to Dubai to argue their points.

Love the free and open Internet? Tell the world´s governments to keep it that way,” reads a tagline on today. A link in the tagline takes the user to a webpage explaining Google´s standpoint on the issue.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) was first created by the United Nations and has worked to make sure the nations can communicate with one another a first via telegram, then through radio, telephone and now, satellite. Now, the ITU is suggesting the UN take a look at some of their telecommunications regulations in Dubai at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). According to BBC News, the last time these regulations saw such an overhaul was in 1988, well before the Internet became the force it is today.

One of these regulations includes a resolution which claims to end countries withholding the Internet or impeding their access to public Web sites.

"This should send a strong message to the international community about accusations that ITU´s membership wishes to restrict the freedom of speech. Clearly the opposite is true,” said ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Touré, according to TG Daily.

The US ambassadors have some concerns about free speech and open access as it pertains to this resolution, saying that the ITU now wants to be in charge of governing the Internet.

"There have been active recommendations that there be an invasive approach of governments in managing the internet, in managing the content that goes via the internet, what people are looking at, what they're saying,” said Terry Kramer, the US ambassador to the WCIT, speaking to the BBC.

"These fundamentally violate everything that we believe in in terms of democracy and opportunities for individuals, and we're going to vigorously oppose any proposals of that nature."
Google´s Take Action Web site has also expressed their concerns today, saying these proposals will exclude certain countries and, therefore, restricts a “free and open” Internet.

“Only governments have a voice at the ITU,” reads the Google site.

“This includes governments that do not support a free and open Internet. Engineers, companies, and people that build and use the web have no vote.”

There have been some 900 regulation changes proposed by the ITU, and a large majority of nations will have to agree before any of these changes can be made.

Although the nations will begin debating these topics today, the ITU will be unable to force countries to adopt these new regulations. China, for instance, will still be able to block any political content through their “Great Firewall.”

Kramer is concerned that some of these proposed regulations will allow each country to come up with their own regulations and standards. With so many  individual standards and regulations, the Internet could become fragmented and reaching out across the borders could become more difficult.

"That opens the door ... to content censorship” said Kramer.