Sun, Dec 02, 2012 - Page 9 News List

Dark warnings about future of Internet access

An international conference to revise a global ‘digital’ treaty is sparking fears that precedents will be set that could jeopardize freedom on the Web

By Eric Pfanner  /  NY Times News Service, PARIS

Russia also proposed that “member states shall have the sovereign right to establish and implement public policy, including international policy, on matters of Internet governance, and to regulate the national Internet segment, as well as the activities within their territory of operating agencies providing Internet access or carrying Internet traffic.”

This was widely interpreted as a call to legitimize domestic censorship of the Internet. Yet analysts note that governments inclined to filter the Web, like China and Iran, have not felt the need to wait for US permission to do so.

In any case, Kramer said he would reject the Russian proposals, as well as those from telecommunications companies to charge content providers. Like most UN agencies, the telecommunications union customarily operates by consensus, so there is little chance that any proposal drawing broad opposition could end up in the final document.

Kramer said during an interview that he was nevertheless concerned that if the proposals for fees gained traction at the high-profile international conference, they could resurface elsewhere, or individual governments could try to impose such fees unilaterally.

“Models that try to force payment terms between nations and telecoms operators run a huge risk of cutting off traffic,” he said. “Liberalized markets are the only way to expand the success of the Internet.”

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