Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist and one of the “fathers of the internet,” Vint Cerf, spoke before Congress last month to express his concern about some countries and government entities’ attempts to exert an authority over the internet.
Testifying as part of a panel before the House Energy and Commerce CommitteeSubcommittee on Communications and Technology, Cerf told Congress he fears that the International Telecommunication Union, an agency of the United Nations, could exert regulations that would potentially undermine the openness of the global internet. Cerf went on to describe how the success of the internet is perceived as a potential threat by some countries, prompting those governments “to create new international rules that would jeopardize the network’s innovative evolution and its multi-faceted success.”
Among the culprits, Cerf listed Russia, China, Brazil, India, and other countries that have attempted to influence the ITU to increase the amount of control it has over internet governance. He went on to warn against a government-endorsed centralized entity charged with regulating the internet.
Such a move holds profound – and I believe potentially hazardous – implications for the future of the Internet and all of its users. If all of us do not pay attention to what is going on, users worldwide will be at risk of losing the open and free Internet that has brought so much to so many.
As a result of these efforts, there is a strong possibility that this December the ITU will significantly amend the International Telecommunication Regulations – a multilateral treaty last revised in 1988 – in a way that authorizes increased ITU and member state control over the Internet. These proposals, if implemented, would change the foundational structure of the Internet that has historically led to unprecedented worldwide innovation and economic growth.
Some have interpreted Cerf’s comments as an alarm against a potential insurrection of the internet by Communist interests while others have perceived his statements more generally as a defense for the open nature of the internet, the latter being a cause that Cerf has never hesitated to champion. Regardless of which yard you stand in, Cerf maintains the position that an internet that has to answer to any form of government is vulnerable to specific interests that could potentially diminish the unmitigated freedom of communication afforded by the internet.
Cerf has previously spoken out against proposed regulation of the internet by the European Union as well as any manner of closed-circuit internet business that prohibits the free-flowing stream of information on the internet.
In other words, don’t tread on Mr. Cerf’s open internet. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.
Cerf’s full testimony to Congress can be found… here.