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US lawmakers decry UN oversight of the internet

06 Feb 2013
capitol hill

US lawmakers have called out the United Nations' (UN) attempts to regulate the internet.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner Robert McDowell warned of UN attempts to regulate the internet during a hearing in front of Congress.

McDowell fears that UN authorities will step up their efforts to change global internet regulations following failed attempts to do so last year.

"The internet is under assault," said McDowell during a hearing in front of three US House subcommittees.

"As a result, freedom, prosperity and the potential to improve the human condition across the globe are at risk. Any questions regarding these assertions are now settled. Last year's allegations that these claims are exaggerated no longer have credibility."

McDowell said that failed UN attempts at last year's World Telecommunication Standardisation Assembly (WTSA) were just the first attempts to drastically change current internet regulation.

According to McDowell, the WTSA proved that UN members no longer want to keep intergovernmental regulation away from the internet.

He warned that internet advocates must now work fast to prevent major oversight from being passed at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) meeting in 2014.

"Proponents of multilateral intergovernmental control of the internet are patient and persistent incrementalists who will never relent until their ends are achieved," continued McDowell.

McDowell recommended that members work out alternative ways to prevent mandated UN changes to internet policy. He recommended creating alternative proposals to the UN's as a way to spur long-term change.

"Merely saying 'no' to any changes is, quite obviously, a losing proposition," said McDowell.

"Therefore we should work to offer alternate proposals such as improving the long-standing and highly successful, non-governmental, multi-stakeholder model of internet governance to include those who may feel disenfranchised."

During the congressional hearings congressman Greg Walden of Oregon also announced a proposal for a US mandate to keep the internet free from excessive regulation.

The current draft [pdf] of the bill calls for US government to publicly state that it is against any legislation which could reduce current internet freedoms.

Last December, Congress also officially came out against any efforts to change internet regulations at the WTSA.

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James Dohnert

James is a freelance writer and editor. In addition to ClickZ, his work has appeared in publications like V3, The Commonwealth Club,, and Shonen Jump magazine. He studied Journalism at Weber State University.

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