You can block the Internet; watch how the ITU proposes to do it

China moves to block all virtual private networks. No more tunnelling under the Great Firewall of China. The ITU’s attempts to take over management of the Internet is backed by regimes such as this.

Meantime, Hamadoun Toure, head of the ITU, has expressed surprise that the US has not signed on to revisions to the ITU treaty aimed at giving states greater say in the management of the Internet. Recall that the ITU excludes all business and civil society actors from its councils unless they speak as representatives of states. The opposition of the United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Norway and other, generally liberal, communications regimes to greater ITU control of the Internet has been as plain as day for months. The other countries that refused to sign the updated treaty proposals included Costa Rica, Denmark, Egypt, Sweden, the Netherlands, Kenya, the Czech Republic, Japan, New Zealand, Qatar, Serbia, Greece, Finland, and Poland. A total of 55 countries refused to sign the new International Telecommunications Regulations.

A good summary by Andrew Couts can be found here.

There were two key points.

First, control of “spam” could be used to control all communications not liked by states.

Second, the proposed reform of how the Internet is paid for means that the open nature of the Internet could be cut back. As matters work now, a person in Mali who receives video lectures from the Harvard University in the US, gets them by paying his access fees to a local carrier. One payment covers the traffic back and forth from the United States. The ITU proposals are intended to allow the national carrier in Mali to charge someone in the United States, such as Harvard University, for the reception of those signals coming back from Harvard University. This is the resurrection of the old system of telephone payments, where people paid carriers to “terminate” their traffic. You can imagine that, if Harvard or some carrier in the US gets a bill from some pipsqueak national carrier in Mali, it will not pay it, and if sufficiently bothered by importuning from such carriers, an American carrier will cut them off. Harvard is not hurt; the US carrier is not hurt, but the poor fellow in Mali learning about angioplasties, well-drilling or treatments for parasitical diseases will be. In essence the  countries receiving messages  – which are preponderantly in the poorer regions – want compensation from their countrymen for asking for the information (which they get) and compensation from the sending country (which they do not). Third world countries wanted more revenue out of the richer ones. That was how they were bribed to vote for the other arrangements about spam and greater national control of the Internet.

For the devoted, the proposed changes to the ITU treaty are found here, with the changes marked in red. You will see terms like “termination rate” on page 16 of the draft.

If you are interested in how the Internet works, a good place to start is the Internet Society’s pages. Try this one.

You can also read “A Brief History of the Internet”,  a collaborative effort of its founders to recount the events. To the best of my knowledge, it is definitive.