I am sure we’ll hear more shrill warblings about this one.
In one corner, the ITU which is a UN agency which does the dull-but-essential work to make sure phone systems connect together around the world, manages dialling codes, organises radio spectrum use and satellite orbits and various other administrivia to ensure that it meets it goal of “connecting all the world’s people – wherever they live and whatever their means”. They are having a conference in Dubai soon and which proposes to discuss a treaty which may have some impact on aspects of the internet.
In the other corner, Google who, despite pointing out – on their rather thin on detail “Take Action” page – that the ITU proposals are confidential, seem confident enough to claim that the proposals could lead censorship of free speech, and impose “tolls” (aka costs) on companies like YouTube (aka Google), Facebook and Skype.
So, despite their rather Googleish mission statement, Google has taken against the ITU.
According to the ITU Secretary-General, they want to “address the current disconnect between sources of revenue and sources of costs, and to decide upon the most appropriate way to do so”. Of course, being a UN agency, ITU delegations are attended by governments (who can bring whoever they want) and include governments big and small from all over the world. Google doesn’t like this either, and objects to governments (even, presumably those democratically elected to represent the interests of their people) “directing the future” of the internet.
Looking at the ITU website, this conference looks like one of the long and ponderous little cogs which keep the glacial machine of international treaty making turning and its hard to believe there is some sinister conspiracy here. They’re just doing what they do, the same as they always have. Since the proposals are not public, I have no idea if some or all of the claims being made about them are right. Maybe Google knows more. Either way they’re getting their attack in early.
Anyway, this is shaping up to be another SOPA/PIPA-style shouting match. If Cory Doctorow hasn’t ranted already it can’t be long until he does. Lets hope people with sensitive hearing are actually able to detect the facts as it progresses, just in case common sense can find a part to play…