Commissioner Warns Congress about UN Control of Internet

United Nations BuildingFCC Commissioner Robert McDowell warned Senators of a move by foreign governments to bring the Internet under the thumb of the United Nations (UN).  During last week’s hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, McDowell declared, “All of us should be concerned with a well-organized international effort to secure intergovernmental control of Internet governance.”  While the Internet has been largely left to develop free from the hands of government, McDowell noted that China, Russia, India, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are among those nations now desiring to empower the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) as the regulator of the global online world. 

The ITU was founded in 1865 as the International Telegraph Union, and in 1947 it became a UN agency specializing in information and communications technologies (ICTs). The ITU currently manages international radio spectrum and satellite orbits, recommends standards to promote technological interconnection, and works to improve access to ICTs worldwide.  However, new powers proposed for the ITU would give it authority in such areas as cybersecurity, online data privacy, and international Internet tolls. 

In a Wall Street Journal article earlier this year, Commissioner McDowell asserted:

"A top-down, centralized, international regulatory overlay is antithetical to the architecture of the Net, which is a global network of networks without borders….  We must awake from our slumber and engage before it is too late. Not only do these developments have the potential to affect the daily lives of all Americans, they also threaten freedom and prosperity across the globe."

These ITU proposals are likely to be considered at a global conference in Dubai, UAE, in December.  Notably, the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on “International Proposals to Regulate the Internet” for next Thursday morning.

• Read FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell’s testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee.
• Learn more about the UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations