This week, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is holding a meeting in Dubai to discuss “what to do about the Internet.” (h/t The Weekly Standard) There are many proposals in the ITU’s agenda, which runs to over 200 pages, and none are particularly friendly to the idea of a free, and freely accessible, worldwide web. In fact, limiting and censoring the flow of information seems to be the order of the day.
The Wall Street Journal describes the situation thus:
Having the Internet rewired by [UN] bureaucrats would be like handing a Stradivarius to a gorilla. The Internet is made up of 40,000 networks that interconnect among 425,000 global routes, cheaply and efficiently delivering messages and other digital content among more than two billion people around the world, with some 500,000 new users a day. …
One of the more insidious proposals on the ITU’s agenda involves a scheme to make money off the Internet by taxing users on a “sender pays” basis. This means that any website would have to pay certain fee for any visitor who accesses it. (This is how international telephone calls work.) If this proposal is implemented, Internet providers may have to decide to exclude visitors from some countries who charge too much for access. A very sneaky way for some countries to keep its citizens from using the Internet. Russia, China, the various Arab Springers and other dictatorial entities love it!
But even if the (very expensive) UN/ITU shindig comes to nothing this time around, enterprising dictators are already testing and implementing effective ways to keep its citizenry isolated. Syria, for instance, has already centralized (i.e. nationalized) its Internet operations, and is using sophisticated algorithms to monitor Syrian dissidents’ use of the Internet. It has also engineered two brief Internet blackouts – a possible preview of future things to come.
So far, the U.S. government officially stands in opposition to changing the way the Internet operates. But the Obama administration has shown itself to be a very determined enemy of openness, and the official stand may therefore be mere window dressing.