Two alternative models are being mooted. The first involves passing control of the internet to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU, a unit of the United Nations). The second, due to be proposed in Geneva tomorrow by India involves a new UN-operated Committee for Internet Related Policies (CIRP) whose purpose is to oversee and effectively control all internet-related issues.
Robert McDowell at the FCC wrote about the ITU proposals in the Wall Street Journal in February, suggesting that they would ‘upend’ the internet’s current ‘flourishing regime.’ “Upending this model with a new regulatory treaty,” he wrote, “is likely to partition the Internet as some countries would inevitably choose to opt out. A balkanized Internet would be devastating to global free trade and national sovereignty...”
Potentially, the ITU could adopt the proposals from “Russia, China and their allies” at a meeting set for December this year in Dubai. McDowell is concerned. “Regulation proponents only need to secure a simple majority of the 193 member states to codify their radical and counterproductive agenda. Unlike the U.N. Security Council, no country can wield a veto in ITU proceedings.”
Now an alternative proposal to pass control more directly to governments rather than government-controlled telecommunications bodies is to be put forward tomorrow. The Hindu Times reports that India’s proposal “is for CIRP to be funded by the U.N., run by staff from the U.N.'s Conference on Trade and Development arm and report directly to the U.N. General Assembly, which means it will be entirely controlled by the U.N.'s member states,” and represents “a definite shift towards state control rather than a participative model.”
The newspaper believes that governments around the world have been ‘spooked’ by the role of social media and the internet in the Arab Spring, and “it is even possible that India may find passive backing of many governments under the garb of ‘fighting cyber crime and unrest’.” But it is no less in favor of a CIRP-controlled internet than McDowell is of an ITU-controlled internet. When it asked the Indian government for clarification, it was told that the move addresses the need for ‘quick footed and timely global solutions and policies'. “How a 50-member inter-governmental process lodged within the UN bureaucracy, which will meet once every year for two working weeks in Geneva, can respond to decisions that need to be made quickly is unclear,” it comments.
But one thing is clear. The current internet governance model is not internationally acceptable. If it is not suitably reformed, we may find it unsuitably regulated.