A debate that's been ongoing for decaces is back in the news, as Google's Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf testified before a US House committee about the future of the internet. Specifically, Cerf is concerned with possible regulations and powers that could be granted to the International Telecommunication Union, the ITU.The ITU is a UN-based organization that will be meeting later this year in Dubai to discuss the rules and regulations of the internet. More specifically, some UN member countries are hoping that the ITU could take over some of the roles and responsibilities currently handled by a "multi-stakeholder" group of entities like the non-profit ICANN, governments, and other corporations — many of which are US-centric.
On the surface, it could make sense to replace this model with a UN-based body: an international body setting standards for an international network. Not so, says Cerf, arguing that giving the ITU more control would have "profound — and I believe potentially hazardous — implications for the future of the Internet and all of its users." Cerf believes that the ITU's proposed changes would allow member states to "dramatically limit free expression on the web," increase costs, and harm data privacy. He was speaking to a committee that was largely receptive to his testimony — both the Republican-led House and the Democratic Obama administration oppose ceding ICANN's powers to the ITU. The international politics involved will be as complex as anything we've seen at the UN leading up to the December meeting, and until then the US has plans to drum up support for its side from the other 192 countries that will participate.
The full US House of Energy and Commerce Committee hearing is below, Cerf comes on around the two-hour mark.