A man scratches his face as he uses a computer at an internet cafe in Hefei, Anhui province. Credit: Reuters/Stringer
A 'behind-closed-doors' battle for control of the Internet is likely to put 'government handcuffs' on the web, and threatens to end a free and open internet, it has emerged.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a United Nations organisation representing 193 countries, will hold a summit in Dubai in December where member countries will negotiate a treaty that sets out regulations on how international voice, data and video traffic is handled.
Russia, China and Iran will use the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) to try to expand the treaty to include the Internet regulation, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Secret WCIT proposals from several stakeholders have been leaked on the website WCITLeaks.org, giving rise to fears from civil liberties groups and the technology industry that the days of a free, open internet are coming to an end, the report said.
Washington DC-based Tom Wheeler, who previously worked in telco policy for three decades including as CEO of the US Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), called the Dubai summit 'the most important meeting you've never heard of'.
"What's really afoot, however, is an effort by some nations to rebalance the internet in their favour by reinstituting telecom regulatory concepts from the last century," the paper quoted Wheeler, as saying.
He said countries such as India, South Africa and Brazil would attempt to grab a piece of the internet's revenue in the same way they can apply tariffs and other regulations to those connecting with their telephone networks.
Other countries like China and Russia would seek to place controls on the freedom of the Internet.