European Parliament opposed to UN control of the internet

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European Parliament opposed to UN control of the internet

Warwick Ashford

European MPs are the latest grouping to voice concerns that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) could get control of the internet through its coming revision of telecoms rules.

The UN agency is updating its International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai from 3-14 December, but some member states fear it will lead to centralised control of the internet by the UN.

European MPs have joined the US and internet firm Google in saying that the UN should not be allowed to take over control of the internet in response to reports that Russia and its allies want control of key internet systems passed to the ITU, instead of US-based groups like Icann, which regulates the web address system.

Earlier this week, Google said the WCIT threatens the "free and open internet" and asked web users to sign an online petition to support its view. In August, Terry Kramer, the head of the US delegation to the WCIT, said: “We will not support any effort to broaden the scope of the ITRs to facilitate any censorship of content or blocking the free flow of information and ideas.

“The United States believes that the existing multi-stakeholder institutions, incorporating industry and civil society, have functioned effectively and will continue to ensure the health and growth of the internet and all of its benefits,” he said.

The European Parliament has said the ITU is "not the appropriate body" to have authority, according to the BBC. European MPs backed a resolution which urged member states to reject changes to the ITRs, which would "negatively impact the internet, its architecture, operations, content and security, business relations, internet governance and the free flow of information online".

The ITU does not publish submissions by each country, but WCITleaks.org has posted proposals leaked to it, including a submission from Russia suggesting the UN agency could become responsible for allocating at least some of the internet's addresses, currently overseen by Icann.

The Russia Today news service had previously reported that China and India backed the Kremlin's view that the ITU could take over these functions.

ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Toure has signalled that if there were any serious disagreements he would try to avoid putting an issue to a majority vote. 

"Whatever one single country does not accept will not pass," he told the BBC, in July.


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