FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly at the Federal Communications Bar Association

The topic I will discuss is now Internet governance. Before the eye rolling begins, I believe this issues extremely important to the entire communications industry.

And let me give you the key take away: We should all maintain a deep skepticism about the US Government’s recent announcement that it plans to transition away from its oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

A recent Bloomberg article on the ICANN 49 meeting probably summed it up best, and I quote: “A group of nerds and wonks [has been] having some hideously boring meetings in Singapore. You should care: What they produce could change the nature of the Internet.”

Those who have raised concerns about the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) announcement have been labeled as Republican partisans, but even former President Bill Clinton is concerned about NTIA’s plan.

First, and foremost, the fatal flaw in NTIA’s announcement is the potential involvement of foreign governments or quasi-governmental bodies in Internet governance.

Second, from the point of view of maintaining the stability of the Internet, even with ICANN’s flaws, the current oversight structure by NTIA has been an incredible success.

Third, past history and current events show us that numerous foreign governments are more than willing to meddle with the Internet and its use by their citizens. While it is clear that foreign governments will not hesitate to interfere with Internet services and applications when doing so suits their national needs, they also will not hesitate to point out the hypocrisy if and when the United States adopts its own controls over the Internet.

This is an added reason why I am concerned that the FCC will press forward with new network neutrality regulations. At this pivotal moment for Internet freedom, the FCC’s network neutrality proceeding could severely contradict and undermine the US government’s international position. FCC action sends the wrong message: that it is acceptable for nations to impose the strong arm of the government on the Internet. In addition to our domestic concerns, we must also consider the influence of our decisions on other countries, given the strength of our voice worldwide. In conclusion, I urge all of you to follow closely, with a critical eye, NTIA’s and ICANN’s proposals as they develop.

The United States created the Internet and shared it with the world. Now we have an obligation to safeguard it from harm.

FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly at the Federal Communications Bar Association