The ITU (the UN’s ICT Agency) is trying to introduce regulations that would nationalize the Internet, forcing countries to pay fees for content people download and expanding the authority of national governments to censor and control content. Essentially, this body of regulators who I thought mainly held conferences with each other is trying to stage a bit of a coup and take over the Internet. Thankfully, it seems like this won’t happen. But the vote (among countries only) is still yet to come.
The ITU’s broad argument is sorta the same as SOPA/PIPA copyright grabs in the US. There are entrenched entities with weak business models (publishing industry, European telcos) who are trying to use regulation to keep their monies. In the process they’re willing to wreck the engineer and user driven Internet, and Internet denizens predictably rebel.
The ITU, also is trying claw back the relevance it’s been losing since it changed its name from the International Telegraph Union to the International Telecommunications Union. I mean, the ITU’s Secretary General has less Twitter followers than me.
Forbes has a good takedown of the whole debacle:
Here’s the unvarnished truth, which no PR agency can help the agency talk, tweet, or prevaricate their way around: The commercial Internet emerged and matured entirely since the treaty was last reviewed. It developed in spite of the ITRs, not because of them.
There is a familiar pattern here of ambitious regulators who have no expertise and little experience with the Internet proclaiming themselves its benevolent dictators, only to find the peasants revolting before the coup has even started.
The ITU is no different than the sponsors of ACTA, SOPA, PIPA, and other attempts at regulating the Internet, its content, or its users by governments large and small. Like the media lobbyists who continue to see the successful fight to kill SOPA and PIPA as a proxy war waged solely by Google and other Internet companies, the ITU simply can’t accept the reality that Internet users have become their own best advocates.
Without prodding, they readily work together to defend a common-sense faith in self-governance for engineering resources and an unshakable belief in a free marketplace of ideas, the cornerstones of the Internet’s success.
The UN is just the latest would-be savior that believes itself the only solution to governance problems that are largely non-existent. And they are being aided and abetted in this delusion by national governments and others who are determined to turn off the free flow of information however they can, whether through legal or technological means, or both. (Forbes)
The effects of the ITU’s machinations for a country like Sri Lanka would be that we’d be cut off from a lot of Internet content just as we’re growing (cause we can’t pay for it, and providers will have to charge) and our government will be able to censor and block and prosecute content with UN approval, under the guise of security. It’s a really bad deal.
The EU and US have already said they’ll vote against this power grab. We must hope it doesn’t pass, ere the Internet get regulated into irrelevance.