US Firms Challenge Web-Oversight Proposals

AT&T, Google, Microsoft, Intel and many other companies are backing a US effort to block a United Nations agency from extending its powers to the Internet. They say new regulation could increase costs for US corporations offering online services abroad.

The current system of voluntary Internet regulation is dominated by ICANN, a US-based nonprofit that oversees Web addresses, and nonprofit groups that develop network standards.

At a conference last year, ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Touré acknowledged that "some countries are wary of excessive regulation" but said a global framework of Internet regulation was necessary because of the convergence of services online. He said the framework would help "avoid any catastrophe" and "help to ensure the continued growth and prosperity of a sector that is a significant contributor to the gross national product of most countries." US Internet and content providers are particularly concerned about proposals that would allow the ITU to set rates for the exchange of Internet data across borders. Currently, Internet providers such as AT&T reach private agreements with other international phone companies for handing off Internet traffic as it goes across the world. US broadband providers are concerned the ITU would set higher rates for such "peering" agreements to allow countries with state-owned telecommunications systems to make back some of the revenue they have been losing over the past few years as phone calls have moved to the Internet. US Internet companies are concerned they could also get hit with new fees for providing services to global audiences.


US Firms Challenge Web-Oversight Proposals