By Jennifer Baker
Control of the internet must be stopped from falling into the hands of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the European Parliament has warned.
The European Union’s elected representatives loudly called for negotiators to block attempts by the ITU to gain ultimate control over the internet at a conference in Dubai next month.
The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) will attempt to revise international telecommunication regulations, which have not been updated since 1988. A resolution approved by an overwhelming majority of Members of the European Parliament today warned that some of the proposals presented ahead of WCIT could result in the ITU itself becoming “the ruling power of the internet,” something the parliament is determined to prevent.
“The ITU, or any other single international institution, is not the appropriate body to assert regulatory authority over the Internet,” said the resolution, drawn up by Dutch parliamentarian Marietje Schaake.
The resolution calls on the EU member states to prevent any changes to the International Telecommunication Regulations that would be harmful to the openness of the Internet, net neutrality and freedom of expression.
The ITU is the United Nations industry body for telecommunications operators. Its original brief was to allocate global radio spectrum and satellite orbits, and to develop technical interoperability standards for telecommunication networks. However, the internet as we know it did not exist when the international telecommunication regulations (ITRs) were drawn up.
All 27 member states of the EU are signatories of these ITRs and as a result can negotiate as a bloc. The parliament’s resolution calls on the Council and Commission, which will represent the EU in Dubai, to ensure that any changes to the ITRs “will further the EU’s objectives and interests to advance the internet as a public place, where human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly freedom of expression and assembly, are respected, as well as free market principles, net neutrality and entrepreneurship are ensured”.
The Parliament also said that it is concerned that some of the ITU reform proposals would set up charging mechanisms, which could seriously threaten the open and competitive nature of the internet by driving up prices and hurting innovation.
Meanwhile search giant Google has invited users to “pledge your support for the free and open internet,” warning that governments working behind closed doors in Dubai should not direct its future.