High Stakes in UN Siege of the Internet

Somewhere in Dubai, a plot to takeover of the internet is being hatched. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), is a body of the United Nations and this group is meeting this week on creating government controls that will mean effective control of the internet. 193 countries are taking part in this highly secret two-week meeting, but some of the proposals being discussed leaked out over the last few months. They range from puzzling to radically earthshaking changes to how the internet is constructed. It has many worried that the internet is under siege, big names including Google and others have stepped up to oppose these proposed treaties.
The ITU has been trying to exude their influence for more than a decade, and tried to undermine US leadership on the internet. They tried to take the domain name system 16 years ago and that led to ICANN. They tried again some years later with an initiative that proposed changing more control internationally yet ultimately was not adopted. The ITU is coming after US influence again, and though it is widely accepted that they will not succeed, it is a concern for a number of critical reasons.

Part of this is a propensity for the UN to be tolerant of more extreme regimes throughout the world. Part of it has to do with the desire of telecom companies that once enjoyed very lucrative monopolies. A component of their goals is to change the way the internet works so that a shift to a sender pay model to replace the existing peer model. This would mean enormous costs for industry and content providers, eventually shifting passing the costs to consumers. U.S.-based websites would take on costs to pay for international visitors. Essentially like an extra tax on web services. They are also apparently proposing what they call quality of service rules which would prioritize internet traffic, splitting up network traffic that has thus far all been treated equally. This splitting of traffic also creates the opportunity for oppressive governments to restrict and censor certain types of internet traffic. Additional measures force users to pay higher fees for foreign sites. Another component has the UN assigning e-names which will identify internet users, that could lead to tracking of those that dissent with the government.  It’s basically everything the internet is not – open and accessible.

The program appears to have been hatched and probably led by the nations of Russia and China. In a piece by Dick Morris on theHill.com he describes the genesis of this latest control grab:

The proposed treaty stems from an initiative by Russia and China to restrict the Internet. It appears to have been the brainchild of Russian President Vladimir Putin. After a 2011 meeting with Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré of the International Telecommunications Union — the U.N. agency to be vested with control of the Web — Putin turned vocabulary on its head, saying “if we are going to talk about democratization of international relations, I think a critical sphere is information exchange and global control over such exchange.” How Internet regulation would “democratize” things, he did not explain.

Voices against the ITU have emerged including Google, which states among their objections:

Only governments have a voice at the ITU. 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 is the possibility that under the banner of security, or anti-terrorism, some of the initiatives may gain some audience – especially with today’s climate of internet activism, security threats, and social communication.  Without a doubt, there are a number of ways that governments are looking for ways to make adoption and a release of control happen willingly.

Google further has a plea for those that are concerned to stay aware of the activities and pledge to support a free and open Internet:

“A free and open world depends on a free and open Internet. Governments alone, working behind closed doors, should not direct its future. The billions of people around the globe who use the Internet should have a voice.”

About John Casaretto

SiliconANGLE's CyberSecurity Editor - Have a story tip or feedback? Please reach out to me! Security is as critical as ever and our mission is to uncover those stories that will help our industry be more secure.