Entire US Congress votes against ITU control of internet

Unanimously against thing nobody has proposed


The US House of Representatives has voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to keep the internet "free from government control," in a move clearly aimed at the United Nations' World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), currently taking place in Dubai.

In a display of bipartisanship rarely seen on Capitol Hill these days, 397 Representatives voted in favor of the resolution on Wednesday, The Hill reports, with none opposed. The Senate passed its own version of the resolution in September, also with a unanimous vote.

"I think that we are all very, very proud that there is not only bipartisan, but bicameral support underlying this resolution, and there is complete support across the Executive Branch of our government," Representative Anna Eshoo, a Democrat from California, said on the House floor.

"In other words," she continued, "the United States of America is totally unified on this issue of an open structure, a multi-stakeholder approach that has guided the Internet over the last two decades."

In passing the resolution, the US joins a rather unlikely coalition of companies, groups, and governments sharing concerns that the UN's International Telecommunications Union (ITU) might be planning to use the WCIT to stage a power grab for governance of the internet.

The European Parliament approved a similar resolution in November, and no less than Google has launched a website aimed at educating the public about the looming ITU threat.

Never mind that the ITU itself says no threat exists. As far back as June, the organization has struggled to defuse fears of a UN internet takeover, explaining that the ITU's role is merely to promote cooperation and consensus among international networking stakeholders, not to act as a regulator.

In response to the EU resolution, ITU representative Richard Hall blogged that "no proposals exist to give more power to ITU as an institution, which does not have any regulatory authority over any networks whatsoever."

But those assurances have seemingly done little to calm those who see sinister motives in the ITU's proposals, including such organizations as Greenpeace and the International Trade Union Confederation – and, of course, Google.

On its anti-ITU site, the Chocolate Factory characterizes the group as a "secretive" organization whose conference and proposals are "confidential" – this, despite the fact that representatives of the US and other governments are currently monitoring the WCIT proceedings in Dubai, which continue through December 14.

In fact, ITU press spokeswoman Sarah Parkes told The Register that Google could have attended WCIT itself by participating as an IT member, but it chose not to.

Not that Google doesn't want its voice heard by governments. It seems it has just chosen a different route than participating in the ITU. In calendar year 2012, the search giant has spent more on Washington DC lobbyists than in any previous year, and watchdog site OpenSecrets.org lists the company as a top contributor to 118 Congressional members, on both sides of the aisle. Judging by Wednesday's vote, the approach seems to be working. ®

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