The International Telecommunications Union is a UN agency comprised of 193 countries and around 700 companies and research institutions. At the 2012 World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai there was a proposal to shift the ITU from primarily as telecom-oriented agency to one that specifically deals with the Internet. The agency is attempting to wrest power away from the United States non-profit the Internet Cooperation for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN is responsible for the coordination of the global Internet’s system of unique identifiers and ensuring it’s a stable and secure operation.
ITU is seen as too government-focused, giving a voice to repressive regimes while ignoring other stakeholders. It is fair, though, to say that that ICANN looks for input from a much broader range of stakeholders, and that the ITU’s “one country, one vote” model will give governments final say. This input involves the proposal of countries filtering the Internet for just about any reason, something that web companies and western governments generally oppose. What the conference in Dubai is trying to do it to shift the governance of domain names, IP addresses, and other Internet policies to ITU.
Two weeks ago Congress voted unanimously against the ITU in a favor to keep the internet “free from government control.” While we could be cynical and say the United States just wants to keep control to itself, the internet that we have today would look very different under the auspices of the ITU and the oppressive regimes that form the UN. I think it is important for us to understand the possible dangers of these types of resolutions and where it will be taking the internet that we know and love.