Does the government want to regulate the Internet? It really depends on who you ask. Internet freedom fighters say legislation like SOPA and CISPA are thinly veiled attempts to regulate the Internet. The government, however, claims that it's strictly taking a hands-off approach.
The House reaffirmed its hands-off approach in legislation it passed yesterday evening. The bill, H.R. 1580, is titled "To affirm the policy of the United States regarding Internet governance." If you couldn't tell from the title, it's simply a resolution saying that the United States will continue supporting the multi-stakeholder approach in regards to Internet development.
It's encouraging then that the bill was passed unanimously. Of course, no congressman would be caught dead voting against the bill as it would suggest that they were in favor of some rather unpopular suggestions made during a U.N. meeting on Internet governance late last year.
The bill's sponsor, Greg Walden, praised the multi-stakeholder approach to the Internet on the House floor last night, and confirmed that the bill is meant to send a message to other governments:
"Government's hands-off approach has enabled the Internet's rapid growth and made it a powerful engine of social and economic freedom. This bipartisan bill is designed to combat recent efforts by some in the international community to regulate the Internet, which can jeopardize not only its vibrancy, but also the benefits that it brings to the entire world."
Now, this is a good thing. It's nice to see that at least the House is all for an Internet free from government control, but it's unfortunate that the House sees a difference between control and intervention. SOPA, PIPA and CISPA wouldn't hand over control of the Internet to the government, but it would give the government untold powers to intervene.
It's much the same argument that countries like Saudi Arabia and China made during the ITU conference last year. They weren't arguing that the Internet be placed entirely under their control. Instead, they argued that they should be given power over their corner of the Internet to intervene when things got out of control. Granted, CISPA and SOPA were never advocating something like the Great Firewall of China, but they could spiral into something similar if allowed to take effect.
In short, the Internet is a precious resource that has flourished thanks to the current multi-stakeholder model. It's encouraging to see the U.S. government continue to recognize this, but it's high time the U.S. government also recognizes that its attempts to regulate the Internet would violate the very legislation the House passed last night.[h/t: The Hill]