Today, the dark day Syria shut down its Internet, web freedom should be at the very forefront of all of our minds. Next Monday, several hundred government ministers and tech-bureaucrats from around the world will descend on Dubai for a meeting of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a United Nations agency “committed to connecting the world”. This meeting, known as the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), will be focused on redrafting a 1988 treaty that actually governs the ITU.
Cutting through all the bureaucratic bullshit, WCIT is a meeting that threatens to extend UN sanctioned global regulations over the Internet. And it could be really really bad news for all of us who care passionately about an open and free worldwide web.
Earlier this week, Stanford Law School hosted an event entitled Sticky WCIT: Is This The End Of The Internet. It featured a number of experts on global Internet governance including the former Assistant Secretary for Communications in the Clinton administration Larry Irving, the former U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy David Gross and CALinnovates executive director Mike Montgomery. I went and interviewed (yes, I’m an amateur cameraman) Montgomery, Irving and Gross about the dangers of the new ITU treaty.
So I asked could WCIT really mean the end of the Internet? Could it mean the end of the free flow of digital information across analog borders? Could it suffocate online innovation? Might it, as the Russians have already proposed, result in the canning of ICANN? Most disturbingly of all, could it create UN sanctioned legal cover for broad Internet censorship?
Larry Irving is the President and CEO of the Irving Group, a consulting firm providing strategic advice and assistance to international telecommunications and information technology companies, foundations and non-profit organizations. From September, 2009 to July, 2011, Mr. Irving served as Vice President for Global Government Affairs for the Hewlett-Packard Company, the world’s largest technology company. Prior to founding the Irving Group in 1999, Mr. Irving served for almost seven years as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and...
Ambassador Gross is one of the world’s foremost experts on international telecommunications, having addressed the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and led more U.S. delegations to major international telecommunication conferences than anyone else in modern history. Drawing on his more than 30 years of experience as a lawyer, global policy maker and corporate executive, he assists U.S. companies seeking to enter or expand international businesses, non-U.S. companies and organizations seeking to invest in, monitor and understand the U.S....
Mike Montgomery is the Executive Director of CALinnovates, a San Francisco-based technology coalition that advocates on behalf of the technology community so that it can be allowed to deliver on the promise offered by the world’s innovation-driven economy.