FCC chairman warns telecom treaty proposals would ‘threaten the Internet’

The head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Wednesday warned that some of the proposals submitted for an international telecommunications treaty would "fundamentally threaten the Internet as we know it."

According to his prepared remarks for the Futurecom conference in Brazil, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said some of the proposals submitted for the upcoming International Telecommunications Regulations (ITR) treaty negotiations in Dubai could be used to allow monitoring of Web traffic, restrict online communications and give a United Nations agency authority to regulate cybersecurity. He argued that these proposals would be a major setback for innovation and the expansion of broadband Internet to developing countries.

"They will increase uncertainty and raise costs for online innovators everywhere, and could significantly limit access to Internet content and applications for consumers in developing countries, which will in turn suppress demand for broadband," Genachowski said, according to his prepared remarks. "That would threaten to replace the last two decades’ virtuous cycle of innovation and investment with a vicious cycle of lower broadband demand and less infrastructure investment."

The ITR treaty will be reviewed and modified for the first time since 1988 at an upcoming conference in Dubai this December. The treaty has drawn scrutiny from American companies and U.S. officials after reports surfaced that some countries, such as Russia and China, plan to submit proposals that would expand the U.N.'s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) authority over Internet and cybersecurity regulations.

U.S. officials have been meeting with various countries over the last few months to outline the U.S. position on the treaty and drum up support for its proposals.

Genachowski called on negotiating countries to support a multi-stakeholder model of governing the Internet. That would maintain the current system of having various organizations oversee the management of the Internet rather than handing over additional control to the ITU.

The FCC chairman said countries should "embrace commercial arrangements, remove barriers to private investment, vigorously promote competition, and protect unfettered access to information" when considering changes to the treaty. He emphasized that a lot is at stake during the upcoming treaty negotiations, calling it "a crossroads for the Internet."

"Balkanizing the Internet will not grow any country’s economy," Genachowski said, according to his prepared remarks. "The opposite is true."