Rep. Greg Walden To Introduce Internet Freedom Bill

IT Management

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The Internet came under attack far too many times in 2012, but the biggest threat came from the United Nations and its ITU branch. If the group had its way, the Internet would have come under control of the U.N. instead of the current multi-stakeholder approach. A number of nations, including the U.S., rejected the treaty on the grounds of Internet freedom. Now one lawmaker is wanting to make that position the official policy of the U.S.

The Hill reports that Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the House Communications and Technology subcommittee, has proposed a bill that would make it the official policy of the U.S. to promote Internet freedom around the world. The bill was introduced during a hearing this week that's looking into the ITU and its attempts to control the Internet.

Walden talked up the legislation during the hearing by saying that the "traditional hands-off approach" is key to the continued growth of the Internet:

"Governments’ traditional hands-off approach has enabled the Internet to grow at an astonishing pace and become perhaps the most powerful engine of social and economic freedom and job creation our world has ever known."

The proposed legislation features a number of findings that Internet freedom proponents will find most gratifying:

  • Given the importance of the Internet to the global economy, it is essential that the Internet remain stable, secure, and free from government control.
  • The world deserves the access to knowledge, services, commerce, and communication, the accompanying benefits to economic development, education, and health care, and the informed discussion that is the bedrock of democratic self-government that the Internet provides.
  • The structure of Internet governance has profound implications for competition and trade, democratization, free expression, and access to information.
  • Countries have obligations to protect human rights, which are advanced by online activity as well as offline activity.
  • The position of the United States Government has been and is to advocate for the flow of information free from government control.
  • Walden's bill is well intentioned, but it can't really do anything to stop the U.N.'s Internet power grab. All it can really do is make Internet freedom the official stance of the U.S., but it can't make that the official stance of other nations voting at ITU negotiations.

    For that, the U.S. and its allies must continue the argument that the current multi-stakeholder approach to the Internet is the right one. That argument may not be a popular one at a meeting of nations featuring the likes of Russia and China, both of which want unprecedented control of the Internet, but it's about the only thing we have.