By Pete Kasperowic
The House on Wednesday unanimously passed a Senate resolution introduced by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that calls on the U.S. government to oppose United Nations control of the Internet.
The 397-0 vote is meant to send a signal to countries meeting at a U.N. conference on telecommunications this week. Participants are meeting to update an international telecom treaty, but critics warn that many countries’ proposals could allow U.N. regulation of the Internet.
“The 193 member countries of the United Nations are gathered to consider whether to apply to the Internet a regulatory regime that the International Telecommunications Union created in the 1980s for old-fashioned telephone service,” Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said on the House floor.
He said countries will also consider whether to “swallow the Internet’s non-governmental organizational structure whole and make it part of the United Nations.”
“Neither of these are acceptable outcomes and must be strongly opposed by our delegation,” Walden added.
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said both the White House and lawmakers were united against U.N. control of the Internet.
“I think that we are all very, very proud that there is not only bipartisan, but bicameral support underlying this resolution, and there is complete support across the Executive Branch of our government,” she said. “In other words, the United States of America is totally unified on this issue of an open structure, a multi-stakeholder approach that has guided the Internet over the last two decades.”
Nonetheless, members said it was appropriate to pass the resolution to show the strength of U.S. opposition to giving the U.N. any role in Internet governance.
“We need to send a strong message to the world that the Internet has thrived under a decentralized, bottom-up, multi-stakeholder governance model,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).
The World Conference on International Telecommunications is meeting this week in Dubai, and Walden said representatives of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as well as representatives from Congress are attending to “keep an eye” on the proceedings. Walden warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken positively about the prospect of U.N. governance of Internet policy.
The resolution, S.Con.Res. 50, says it is the sense of Congress that the U.S. government should “continue working to implement the position of the United States on Internet governance that clearly articulates the consistent and unequivocal policy of the United States to promote a global Internet free from government control.”
The Senate passed it in September by unanimous consent.