updated 11:24 am EST, Fri November 23, 2012
Google and members of the European Parliament are opposing the idea of the United Nations changing the way the Internet is regulated. The International Telecommunications Union is holding a conference in Dubai next month to decide on new regulations, and both the search giant and the parliamentary institution are disputing various aspects of the conference.
The conference will see government representatives discuss and agree on a new treaty relating to information and communication rules, and will be the first instance of such changes since 1988. As part of this, some countries are set to create new rules that would, according to companies and activists as well as various governments, would encourage censorship and limit information flow, preventing free speech. According to Google's Take Action site, “Other proposals would require services like YouTube, Facebook, and Skype to pay new tolls in order to reach people across borders.”
It is also claimed that the ITU is a closed-door conference for governmental discussion only, with treaty proposals and discussion being completely confidential. Google and others want the process to be open to all that use the Internet, and puts forward the Internet Governance Forum as a more ideal version, it being attended by government officials and members of the public, with the word of all participants having an equal weight in terms of influencing any outcomes.
A number of European Parliament members backed a resolution criticizing the potential increase in power over the Internet that the ITU could get. It warned that revisions would not be a good idea, and asked member states to reject any proposed changes to International Telecommunications regulations. “Some ITR reform proposals being presented by the ITU member states would negatively impact the Internet, its architecture, operations, content and security, business relations, Internet governance and the free flow of information online” said Marietje Schaake, MEP for the Netherlands. The proposals for “specific interconnection-charging mechanisms” were said to threaten the open nature of the Internet by “driving up prices and hampering innovation.”
The ITU World Conference on International Communications is being held between the 3rd and 14th of December.