The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is the United Nation's official agency for information and communication technologies. On December 3rd, the ITU will convene the first World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. As the ITU notes on the web page promoting the meeting, "The conference will consider a review of the  International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), which define the general principles for the provision and operation of international telecommunications. Signed by 178 countries, ITRs are a global treaty applied around the world. [Emphasis in original]
Given that seemingly benign description, it is easy to understand why most Americans are unaware of the danger that lurks behind the words.
Enter FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell.
Commissioner McDowell – by means of a series of interviews, op-eds and remarks at conferences around the world – has been doing yeoman's work attempting to raise the alarm and educate the general populace about the dangers inherent from UN control over the Internet.
Consider the following points as presented by Commissioner McDowell in various forums:
- The 1988 ITR global treaty adopted by the ITU (pre-dating what is now called the Internet) allowed for the rapid development and growth of the Internet by exempting computer-to-computer communications from traditional telecom regulation.
- Since 1998, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has governed the Internet. According to ICANN, it operates as a "not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable."
- The goal of the WCIT this December is to re-negotiate and re-draft the 1988 ITR global treaty in order to give the ITU jurisdiction over the Internet. While the draft proposals will seem "innocuous and small at first, there's going to be a big line crossed and that will be from the UN not regulating the Internet, to it having jurisdiction over the Internet…that would be just the first stage of an incremental" UN takeover of the Internet.
- "This could involve cybersecurity and privacy. It could involve regulating engineering standards that are now done by non-governmental groups of engineers and not international bureaucrats."
- "International regulatory overlay would be devastating to free trade and free expression throughout the world."
- Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin recently stated, "We should have international control over the Internet" through the ITU.
- Russia and China seek "an international treaty through the ITU so the U.S. lives by one standard and they (Russia and China) breach the treaty the way we saw with the START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) treaty."
- Up to 90 countries of the 193 member states in the ITU are already on-board to grant the ITU jurisdiction over the Internet.
- "Not just our government, but governments throughout the world, as well as industry, really (need to) understand the severity of this effort, this time, is unlike any other time in Internet history."
Still, McDowell seems frustrated that the Obama administration – specifically the State Department – has not been more aggressive in educating other countries who will be present at the WCIT in December as to why it is in their best interest for ICANN to remain in control of the Internet. Recently, McDowell stated, "I'm just a bit anxious that we seem to be slower moving on this one than we have been on similar fights in recent years."
Indeed, this is an issue on which there is no time to waste. Here in the United States, there is bipartisan political support and industry support for keeping the Internet free from UN control. What is needed is for the Obama administration, all members of Congress and the global business community to unite in a coordinated, expedited effort to educate their individual constituencies about this threat in order to bring global pressure on ITU member states to thwart the UN from "fixing" an Internet that is not broken.
Otherwise, the world may lose the last frontier of freedom.
Rob Douglas was a Washington DC private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Rob is an authority on the use of social engineering to steal protected information. Rob's investigative work and congressional testimony resulted in the passage of state and federal laws. Rob has hosted talk radio shows in Washington DC, Maryland and Colorado and was an award-winning Colorado newspaper columnist. Rob's current focus is the intersection of national security, politics and the Internet.