U.S. lawmakers want to make it clear that they're against a takeover of the Internet by the U.N.'s International Telecommunication Union and member governments.
In 2012, Congress passed resolutions opposing proposals at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) to allow the ITU to regulate the Internet, but a House of Representatives subcommittee will debate a new resolution essentially saying the same thing during a hearing next week.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee's communications subcommittee will debate a bill to make the language in 2012's resolutions official U.S. government policy during a hearing starting on Wednesday and continuing Thursday. If passed, the bill would make it official U.S. government policy to "promote a global Internet free from government control and to preserve and advance the successful multistakeholder model that governs the Internet," according to a draft bill released by the subcommittee.
The draft bill takes aim at the ITU, which convened WCIT in December. During the meeting, several countries pushed for the ITU to take over governance of the Internet and for resolutions that critics said would allow widespread censorship of Web content.
"If Congress sits idly by, attempts to drag the Internet within the ambit of international regulatory bodies just might succeed," the subcommittee's staff wrote in a memo about the draft bill. WCIT is "likely the start, not end, of international efforts to regulate the Internet."
The current model of Internet governance, with multiple groups involved, has worked, the committee's staff added.
"Governments' hands-off approach has enabled the Internet to grow at an astonishing pace and become perhaps the most powerful engine of social and economic freedom and job creation the world has ever known," staffers wrote. The current multi-stakeholder governance model "allows the Internet to evolve quickly, to meet the diverse needs of users around the world, and to keep governmental or non-governmental actors from controlling the design and operation of the network or the content it carries."
The Telecommunications Industry Association, a trade group representing manufacturers and suppliers of telecom equipment, praised the subcommittee for again pushing for the Internet policy.
"Passage of this legislation will confirm that the United States can speak with an even stronger voice against any efforts to place Internet governance under the control of a multi-national body," the group said in a statement.
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is [email protected]