Steamboat Springs On Dec. 3, a global battle will commence in the United Arab Emirates. By Dec. 14 — without a single shot fired — the last frontier of freedom could fall prey to the United Nations. Specifically, the Internet as we know it could cease to exist in ways that will profoundly impact national security, privacy, freedom of expression and free trade. And yet, the Obama administration is not moving fast enough to thwart this threat, and the American people seem tragically unaware of this pending loss of freedom and security.
The International Telecommunications Union is the United Nations’ official agency for information and communication technologies. On Dec. 3, the ITU will convene the first World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai. As the ITU notes on the Web page promoting the meeting, “The conference will consider a review of the (1988) International Telecommunication Regulations, 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.”
Given that seemingly benign description, it is easy to understand why most Americans are unaware of the danger that lurks behind the words.
Enter Federal Communications Commissioner Robert McDowell.
Commissioner McDowell — by means of a series of interviews, op-eds and remarks at conferences across the world — has been doing yeoman’s work attempting to raise the alarm and educate the general populace about the dangers inherent from U.N. control over the Internet.
Consider the following points as presented by McDowell in various forums:
The 1988 International Telecommunication Regulations global treaty adopted by the ITU (pre-dating what now is 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 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 World Conference on International Telecommunications this December is to renegotiate and redraft the 1988 ITR global treaty in order to give the International Telecommunications Union 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 U.N. not regulating the Internet, to it having jurisdiction over the Internet … that would be just the first stage of an incremental” U.N. 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 International Telecommunications Union.
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.”
As many as 90 countries of the 193 member states in the International Telecommunications Union are 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.”
Lest anyone thinks McDowell is a GOP partisan raising undue alarm to create additional controversy for President Barack Obama in the midst of an election year, McDowell was the first Republican to be appointed to an independent agency by President Barack Obama and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2009. In fact, McDowell is held in high esteem by both parties, and McDowell has gone out of his way to give deference to the Obama administration for its handling of this crucial issue.
Still, McDowell seems frustrated that the Obama administration — specifically the State Department — has not been more aggressive in educating other countries that will be present at the World Conference on International Telecommunications 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 U.S., there is bipartisan political support and industry support for keeping the Internet free from U.N. 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 International Telecommunications Union member states to thwart the UN. from “fixing” an Internet that is not broken.
Otherwise, the world may lose the last frontier of freedom.
Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C., private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Douglas is an authority on the use of social engineering to steal protected information. His investigative work and congressional testimony resulted in the passage of state and federal laws. Douglas’ current focus is the intersection of national security, politics and the Internet.