Google warns telecom treaty proposals threaten to 'regulate the Internet'

Google unveiled an online advocacy campaign on Tuesday raising concerns with proposals to be considered at an international telecom treaty conference in Dubai next month — warning that some governments are using the upcoming treaty negotiations "to regulate the Internet." 

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On the "Take Action" web page for its online campaign, Google says that some of the proposed changes that countries have suggested "could increase censorship and threaten innovation." 

To help thwart that threat, the search giant asks people to sign an online pledge to signify their support "of the free and open Internet." 

"A free and open world depends on a free and open Internet. Governments alone, working behind closed doors, should not direct its future," the pledge reads. "The billions of people around the globe who use the Internet should have a voice."

The 193 member countries of the United Nation's International Telecommunications Union (ITU) will meet in early December at a conference in Dubai to update the International Telecommunications Regulations treaty for the first time since 1988. 

The treaty governs how telephone calls and other communications traffic are exchanged internationally. 

China, Russia and other countries are reportedly attempting to expand the scope of the treaty from regulating telecommunications traffic to regulating the exchange of information on the Internet — sparking concern from U.S. officials and companies.

Google contends that the ITU is "the wrong place to make decisions about the future of the Internet" because only governments have a seat at the negotiating table to discuss policy, and not all of them "support a free and open Internet." The company also calls the UN agency "secretive" because it's holding the treaty negotiations behind closed doors and keeping the member countries' treaty proposals confidential.

"Governments alone should not determine the future of the Internet," Google argues on the campaign's site, which uses the hashtag #freeandopen. "The billions of people around the globe that use the Internet, and the experts that build and maintain it, should be included."

The search giant also argues that some countries' proposals "would require services like YouTube, Facebook, and Skype to pay new tolls in order to reach people across borders," which would limit people's access to information, especially in developing countries. 

Google has four representatives on the 95-person delegation representing the United States at the conference — more than any other company. Representatives from Verizon, AT&T, Cisco, Microsoft, Intel and Facebook are also on the delegation. They will join officials from the State Department and other agencies, a group of of telecommunications attorneys from Wiley Rein and representatives from advocacy groups and trade organizations.