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US blocks UN telecoms treaty over fears of internet regulation

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Ethernet / Internet (stock)
Ethernet / Internet (stock)

The US has refused to sign a proposed international telecommunications treaty that could have opened the door to regulation of the internet. Terry Kramer, the US ambassador to the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), said that the US was fighting to maintain an "open internet" alongside supporters including Canada and the UK. Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia were among those spearheading the campaign for the new treaty, arguing that the US has unfair control over ICANN, which manages IP addresses and top-level domain names. The proposed treaty was scheduled to have come into effect from 2015, but wouldn't have been legally binding.

The move doesn't come as a surprise; Kramer and the European Parliament have long expressed their opposition to internet regulation, and say that the UN and ITU shouldn't attempt to control it with an update to a treaty last ratified in 1988. Earlier this month, the House of Representatives symbolically voted 397-0 in favor of a resolution speaking out against handing control of the internet to the ITU. The American position is that having a single body in control of the internet's technical structure allows it to make decisions quickly without getting bogged down in bureaucracy.