US continues to fight proposals for UN to regulate web, Ambassador Kramer says

The United Nations conference meeting in Dubai this week has not decided yet whether it will attempt to regulate the Internet, and the U.S. continues to argue against doing so.

That was the main message from U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer in a conference call with journalists Thursday morning.

“We’ll be working on that issue day and night over the next few days,” Kramer said.

'Anything that gets into the content of the Internet we do not feel should be in this treaty.'

— Terry Kramer, U.S. chief envoy to the ITU

The U.S. and Canada have introduced a resolution that would restrict the focus of the U.N. conference to only companies known as “registered operating agencies” -- telecom companies like AT&T and Verizon -- and not the Internet in general. That resolution has yet to be voted on.

“Fundamentally, the conference should not be dealing with the Internet sector,” Kramer said.

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If it did deal with the Internet, he added, there would be “significant implications that could open the doors to things such as content censorship. It could also introduce payment models that… [could] reduce traffic.”

Ambassador Kramer, instead, would like to focus the U.N. conference on ways to expand competition in broadband service globally.

“We think keeping to the pure focus of this conference on advancing broadband … is absolutely the right approach,” he said.

Reports have circulated recently that the U.N. had already approved what’s known as “deep packet inspection,” which might help facilitate censorship. Dick Beaird, the Deputy Head of the U.S. Delegation, confirmed that a measure about deep packet inspection had been approved but that it was of a merely technical nature and aimed at standardizing the practices of telecom companies.

“There was a recommendation that had been worked on for four years that involved deep packet inspection as a means to classic traffic management. It was a private-sector initiative, as all these items coming in… at a technical level are,” Beaird said.

Kramer added that the U.S. delegation continued to oppose a Russian proposal to give regulatory control of the Internet over to government.

“The most dramatic element of the Russian proposal is suggesting that Internet governance be moved away from [non-government] multi-stakeholder organizations such as ICANN and over to governments …  potentially the ITU [a U.N. agency] although I think the ITU would say it doesn’t want to be in that business.”

He added that the U.S. delegation was also on guard against back-door attempts at censorship.

“What seems like seemingly harmless proposals can open the door to censorship … because people can then say, ‘listen, as part of Internet security, we see traffic and content that we don’t like.’ And governments could be making judgments about that content… suppressing people’s freedoms,” Kramer said.

“While there may be proposals on Internet security, you can imagine we are very much opposed to those … anything that gets into the content of the Internet we do not feel should be in this treaty.”