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Leave Well Enough Alone

With all of its annoyances the current structure of the Internet has been working well, but now the United Nations wants to get into the act and take over the administration.

Yes, it is controlled to a great extent by the US government and US organizations, but that has a lot to do with the birth of the ‘Net, rather than some conspiracy to control the world. It works pretty well because the US has developed a hands-off approach to regulating the ‘Net.

If the control is passed to the International Telecommunications Union, UN Bureaucrats will be making decisions and passing regulations that affect us all. I’m not really interested in having people from the governments of Syria, Iran, China, and Russia determining what can and what cannot appear on the Internet, or to have them decide how it will be paid for.

Consider that they have been discussing a model that involves having content providers billed for the data sent over the ‘Net. This means that a denial of service attack will cost the victim a major amount of money for trying to service all of the requests.

A page has been set up, Stop the Internet Coup, to urge action on the UN move. If some of the things they are proposing go through, you can expect to see a lot of people folding their tents and leaving the ‘Net.

6 comments

1 Badtux { 12.02.12 at 2:25 am }

Actually, I think the cat-symbol people are jumping the gun here. The reality is that the ITU doesn’t work the way in which paranoids appear to believe it works. We deal with the ITU a lot over in the ham radio world, and basically the ITU is a way to *consensually* decide on things like, e.g., what radio frequencies will be dedicated to what purposes. That is, it just takes one party disagreeing to torpedo the ITU process. And if, for example, we want to use the 220Mhz band differently here in America compared to the rest of the world, we just do it — the 220Mhz band doesn’t propagate far beyond our borders (we do have to operate differently if we’re within 50 miles of the Canadian border to not interfere with their use of the 220Mhz band), so.

The ITU predates the UN, BTW. It was set up in the late 1800′s to help figure out the operating agreements for the first trans-Atlantic telegraph lines, then later extended to radio-telegraphy and inter-country telephone calls. The country codes that you dial to do international calls, and the touch-tone codes to handle signally for international calls, for example, were agreed upon by ITU member countries and you wouldn’t be able to make international calls if not for the ITU because no two countries would have the same phone number scheme for routing calls. The ITU was rolled into the UN after WW2 but basically still operates under pre-UN rules which require consensus.

The chances of the ITU making any significant changes in Internet governance are pretty much zero. It simply does’t operate in a way that would allow it to do that, its charter doesn’t extend to that sort of thing.

In other words, I’m hearing a lot of paranoia from the right about this “UN takeover”, which seems to have been picked up by civil libertarians on the left, but given my knowledge of how the ITU works in the landline and RF realms, that doesn’t seem likely at all. The ITU simply doesn’t work that way. Blue helmets are *not* going to parachute into your ISP and force it under UN control tomorrow. Sorry, that’s just nuts.

- Badtux the Skeptical Penguin

2 Bryan { 12.02.12 at 10:23 pm }

In addition to the IDL and the EFF, Google and the EU are objecting to the proposal put forward to shift control to the ITU.

The big thing is the proposal to change the way the ‘Net is paid for, cost shifting to the landline model from the current system.

I have a lot of experience with its function in the radio spectrum and International wired communications, but the Internet is a very different thing, and I really prefer the geeks in charge. YMMV.

3 Badtux { 12.03.12 at 1:59 am }

Bandwidth at the ISP level has always been on a per-kilobyte basis except when there are peering agreements otherwise, i.e., the “landline model”. That’s why if you host a real server at a data center, you have to pay bandwidth charges as well as hosting charges. Again, ITU deliberations don’t have force of law. If the international ISP’s use the ITU proceedings to get together and decide to change how they’re going to bill things, that’s something they decide, that’s not a “UN takeover of the Internet”. The fact that they’re doing it at a meeting called by the ITU, which in turn is currently sponsored by the UN, doesn’t change the fact that it is the ISP’s, not the UN, which decide those things — just as, in the 1860′s, it was the telegraph companies that decided how to route and tariff international telegrams, long before the UN ever existed.

And of course ITU proceedings do not have the force of law. Any regulations would need to be promulgated via the FCC. Fat chance of any major change in Internet governance from that mechanism, the FCC has been pretty useless of late.

4 Bryan { 12.03.12 at 10:22 pm }

They are proposing a treaty that will become international law and will, at a minimum, be a source of litigation and expense. This isn’t about regulations, this is a treaty, just like ACTA.

5 Badtux { 12.04.12 at 12:07 pm }

Treaties regulate governments, not private parties. The Internet is by and large run by and governed by private parties. In fact, one of the changes that the Russians want is a change to the ITU constitution that requires governments to pass regulations that enforce ITU decisions. The U.S. has already said “NYET!” to that one. Another change that the Russians want is a change to the ITU constitution that says the ITU can govern communications within a country’s borders. Again, the U.S. has already said “NYET!” to that one. In short, the U.S. has already vetoed changing the ITU’s constitution to allow the ITU more power over the Internet, and all it takes is one “Nyet!” to veto changes to the ITU constitution.

What’s left without those changes is mundane things like tariff regimens and peering agreements. Which may be done via ITU-sponsored proceedings and processes, but they’re agreed upon by the parties involved, or there’s no agreement.

6 Bryan { 12.04.12 at 10:56 pm }

Badtux, we don’ t know for sure what is in the treaty, but whatever it is, the US just rejected the Internet proposals today. There must be something in there that the major players think is going to radically change the way things work, or the US wouldn’t be rejecting all of the Internet proposals so quickly.

From the US statement it seems that this treaty is a replacement for all of the treaties that the ITU currently administers and the Internet was added. With both the US and the EU on record as opposing the Internet proposals, I can’t see it moving forward, but who knows what is going on.

We have states now proposing that carriers save text messages, so they will be available for criminal investigations. What a monumental waste of disk space that will increase the cost of cell service.