The Internet has sustained some pretty intense assaults in the past couple of years. There was the heavy-handed attempt to stamp out content piracy with SOPA/PIPA, the Federal Communications Commission’s Net neutrality ruling, which many saw as splitting the baby, and that whack job who claimed to own a patent on the World Wide Web.
It is again open season on the Internet in Dubai, where the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency ‑ whose mandate includes global communications ‑ is weighing proposals from many of its 193 member nations. Some of these proposals ‑ such as decentralizing the assignment of website names and eliminating Internet anonymity ‑ would make enormous changes to the organization and management of the Internet.
The ITU meeting, which began on Monday, runs through Dec. 14. Its agenda, and even the fact the proceedings are taking place at all, set off alarms among the Internet’s guardian angels.
Among the most vocal critics are a founder of the Internet, Vint Cerf, and of the Web, Tim Berners-Lee. Theirs is not some misplaced paternal instinct or senior graybeard moment or cry for attention. These guys are worried. And if they are worried, we all should be.
Still not sure this is serious business? The U.S. House of Representatives, which cannot agree on anything, voted unanimously to ban ITU regulation of the Internet before it even happens. The European Union did that last month, before the ITU even met.