Google has jumped into the debate over a UN telecom gathering set to
review regulations affecting the Internet, claiming it is "the wrong
place" to make decisions about the future of the Web.
In a posting on
its "take action" blog this week, Google said the December gathering of
the UN's International Telecommunications Union comes amid "a growing
backlash on Internet freedom."
The ITU's World Conference on
International Communications opening next month in Dubai will update
global telecom rules for the first time since 1988, and some countries
see this as an opportunity to set up new rules for the Internet.
officials and lawmakers, along with a number of Internet activists,
have expressed concern that proposals from China, Russia and other
nations could threaten the open model of the Internet by giving the UN
agency a greater role.
Google's statement said "the ITU is the
wrong place to make decisions about the future of the Internet" because
"only governments have a voice at the ITU," including some "that do not
support a free and open Internet."
"The ITU is also secretive," Google said. "The treaty conference and proposals are confidential."
said some proposed treaty changes "could increase censorship and
threaten innovation" and others "would require services like YouTube,
Facebook, and Skype to pay new tolls in order to reach people across
borders. This could limit access to information -- particularly in
Google's comments backed the US position, which
is that the non-government "multi-stakeholder" system of the Internet
should remain in place.
"Governments alone should not determine
the future of the Internet," the Google blog said. The billions of
people around the globe that use the Internet, and the experts that
build and maintain it, should be included.
The Google response
comes a week after Russia submitted its proposal to the ITU, provoking
strong reactions from some online activists.
Larry Downes, an
analyst with the Bell Mason Group consultancy who follows technology
issues, said the Russian proposal "makes explicit" Moscow's desire to
bring the Internet under greater control of the UN agency and diminish
the role of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers,
which manages the Internet address system.
federation's proposal... would in specific substantially if not
completely change the role of ICANN in overseeing domain names and IP
addresses," Downes said in a blog post.
"Of course the Russian
Federation, along with other repressive governments, uses every
opportunity to gain control over the free flow of information, and sees
the Internet as it's most formidable enemy."