FCC says Internet freedom under threat

Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Robert McDowell says Internet freedom is under threat by emerging global powers seeking a salient increase in government regulation.

”The proponents of Internet freedom and prosperity have been asleep at the switch. Or maybe I should say asleep at the router,” McDowell recently told the Washington Times. 

“Thus far, those who are pushing for new intergovernmental powers over the Internet are far more energized and organized than those who favor the Internet freedom and prosperity.”

According to McDowell, a number of countries believe the current model is “dominated” by the US. As such, emerging powers will attempt to gain more control over the Web’s availability, financial model and infrastructure.

China and Russia – along with Brazil, South Africa and India – are expected to push for the renegotiation of a 24-year-old treaty that deals with international oversight of the Internet at the UN’s upcoming International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in Dubai. 

McDowell – who recently met with State Department and Commerce officials – confirmed the US was attempting to halt the initiative, which could potentially lead to the “Balkanization” of the Internet. 

To be sure, a new treaty dominated by controversial clauses (which the US cannot veto) would likely prompt the US and other Western democracies to “opt out” in protest. 

McDowell says such a treaty would “bring a whole parade of problems,” such as countries charging Internet giants like Google, Facebook and Amazon for their data traffic on a “per click basis.” Meaning, increased traffic would lead to higher payments to revenue-hungry national governments, a scenario Western businesses are obviously keen to avoid.