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Governments meet in Dubai for secret talks on Internet freedom

Internet freedom could be at stake at a secretive meeting of governments that begun on Monday in Dubai.

The United Nations International Telecommunication Union will negotiate new international telecom regulations, including Internet issues, at the World Conference on International Telecommunications that runs through Dec. 14.

Many companies, organisations and individuals oppose the meeting because it is a secretive session that involves some countries that oppose a free and open Internet.

According to the Center for Rights, some proposals allow for access to be cut off more easily, threatening privacy, legitimising monitoring and blocking online traffic. Others seek to impose new fees for accessing content, the group says, adding that there could be consequences for businesses and human rights.

U.S. officials expect other countries to push for international Internet traffic taxes and for the ITU to take Internet governance away from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and other organisations.

Such talk has drawn the attention of Washington. In August, the U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously to send a message to ITU that the Internet doesn’t need new international regulations.
In addition, last month the European Union also called for negotiators to block attempts by the ITU to gain ultimate control over the Internet at the conference.

And Google, the Internet search leader, has been vociferous in denouncing the meeting and for weeks has been promoting its “take action” website where people can join a list of those who oppose the WCIT as well as ask others on social networks to also join the movement against it.

A representative from the Internet Society — a member of the ITU — says factors such as competition among carriers, transparency and regulatory independence have contributed to the success and growth of international telecommunications and these things are not currently addressed in the treaty, which was last negotiated in 1988.

“There are clear opportunities of positive things that could be included into the treaty to bring it up to date in a way that would be consistent with what we’ve seen has worked,” the representative said in a video.

The representative added, “The impact on the Internet could be either good or bad. We see proposals currently to the treaty conference that would impact the way the Internet operates, the architecture of the Internet, the security of the Internet and the content of the Internet. And unfortunately some of the proposals that we see would take the old telephone model and simply apply it to new technologies like the Internet. That would not be a good thing.”

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