Commissioner Warns of International Internet Power Plays

While the domestic “net neutrality” battle has been a focus for many this week, an important blog post by FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly on international internet freedom should not be missed. Reflecting on the six months since the U.S. relinquished its supervisory role over the internet’s basic framework, O’Rielly called it “an appeasement strategy” and asserted that “it doesn’t seem to have worked.”

O’Rielly and others, including NRB, were vocal in opposition to the internet authority transfer, which came to a head last autumn. NRB was particularly concerned that repressive regimes might seek to fill the power vacuum in a move to curtail freedom online.

Notably, O’Rielly described renewed efforts by foreign governments to gain more power over the internet through United Nations bodies. In his blog post, he warned of recent International Telecommunications Union (ITU) discussions on regulating internet companies and interest in an “Internet of Things” technology that would aid governments that might wish to track users. He also highlighted a report by China calling for more UN involvement in internet governance and a Russian motion that could attempt to broaden the ITU’s jurisdiction to matters of over-the-top (OTT) content.

O’Rielly concluded, “I think it is safe to say that we got the short end of the stick.” He hopes the United States can learn a lesson about appeasement and declared, “Now, we must do everything we can to stop these continuous and systemic assaults on the internet.”  

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: April 28, 2017

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