Here's what's happened: first, ICANN (the legendarily opaque US corporation that runs the internet's Domain Name System) approved a change in pricing for .ORG domains, run by the nonprofit Internet Society (ISOC) through its Public Interest Registry (PIR), allowing the registry to raise prices. The change was done entirely by staff, without board approval.
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FCC Commissioner Robert M. McDowell has a WSJ op-ed condemning a treaty proposed at the International Telecommunications Union, the UN agency that oversees global phone systems, which would transfer much of Internet governance to the UN.
Commissioner McDowell correctly asserts that transferring governance to the ITU would be bad for Internet freedom. There are few UN specialized agencies that are more ossified and more prone to being gamed by the world's totalitarian regimes than the ITU. One UN acquaintance of mine memorably referred to the ITU as the place "where superannuated telco bureaucrats go to die." And let's not forget the vital role that ITU designates filled in creating surveillance and censorship regimes established by the failing governments of Tunisia and Egypt (and the similar role they're likely playing in other regional nations in the midst of popular uprisings).
But it's pretty rich for someone from the Obama administration US government to go around talking about how the Internet is in danger from political interference from special interests. This is the administration that gave us SOPA and the TPP, that argues that ACTA can be put into law without an act of Congress, and that has made a habit of extrajudicially seizing .com and .net domains on the sloppy say-so of its political donors from the entertainment industry.
I agree with Commissioner McDowell that the Internet needs to be free of political interference. I agree that this won't happen at the ITU.
But that's where we part ways. McDowell describes a present-day Internet where wise American stewards neutrally steer the net's course. Read the rest