Should the United Nations regulate the Internet? One FCC official warned that there is an effort afoot to empower the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to do just that. After outlining a possible 2012 agenda for the FCC in a speech last week, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell declared, “The communications public policy effort that may affect all of us the most in 2012, however, will take place far from our shores. As we sit here today, scores of countries, including China, Russia and India, are pushing hard for international regulation of Internet governance.”
The ITU was founded in 1865 as the International Telegraph Union. In 1947, the ITU became a UN agency specializing in information and communications technologies (ICTs). The ITU manages international radio spectrum and satellite orbits, recommends standards to promote technological interconnection, and works to improve access to ICTs worldwide.
Thus far, the Internet has been largely left to develop freely away from the hands of government. Indeed, as Commissioner McDowell stated, “A top-down, centralized, international regulatory overlay is antithetical to the architecture of the ’Net, which is a global network of networks without borders.” Nevertheless, McDowell highlighted international coalitions forming to alter this situation, and he pointed to a global conference next December in Dubai, UAE, where advocates of Internet freedom will need to make a stand.