Internet at Global Crossroads

Internet at Global Crossroads

The following is a transcript of comments made by Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski at FutureCom in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Oct. 10:

The upcoming World Conference of International Telecommunications, convening in Dubai in December, will be a crossroads for the Internet.

The conference will review the International Telecommunications Regulations, or ITRs, which were designed for a telephone — indeed, a monopoly telephone — world. They were last negotiated in 1988, and a lot is at stake.

Some proposals put forward for the WCIT fundamentally threaten the Internet as we know it. There are proposals that seek to impose on the Internet a new layer of outdated, heavy-handed regulatory structures and to alter how Internet traffic is exchanged — calling for a so-called “sender pays” approach. Other proposals would involve the International Telecommunication Union in regulating cybersecurity, or could be used by countries to support monitoring and restrictions on online communications.

These types of proposals would replace market forces with international regulations — ignoring the successes of the past two decades.

Some of these proposals seek to protect companies from competition by giving international bodies authority to determine market outcomes.

In policy circles, it’s not uncommon to see companies pursue in regulation what they’re unable to achieve in the market. It certainly can’t be the answer to such a proposal to adopt a new layer of global Internet regulation, and fundamentally change the Internet as we know it.

Proposals like these will harm broadband-related innovation and investment throughout the world, and particularly in less-developed countries. They will increase uncertainty and raise costs for online innovators everywhere and could significantly limit access to Internet content and applications for consumers in developing countries, which will in turn suppress demand for broadband. That would threaten to replace the last two decades’ virtuous cycle of innovation and investment with a vicious cycle of lower broadband demand and less infrastructure investment.

In short, these changes would stifl e the dynamism of the Internet and hamstring the unprecedented growth and innovation it has fueled.

So that’s one path. The alternative is the proven path.

U.S. Ambassador William Kennard, my friend and a predecessor as FCC chairman, said it well last week. In the past, “[g]overnment had the good sense to exercise restraint [and] the humility to know that government cannot predict or presume to understand how business models would evolve.”

We must exercise the same restraint and avoid detailed regulations and a new regulatory layer that will impede innovation and be outdated in no time. Instead, we should adopt the proven course, do what we already know how to do, and what has worked — embrace commercial arrangements, remove barriers to private investment, vigorously promote competition, and protect unfettered access to information.

We need to preserve the longstanding multi-stakeholder governance model that has enabled the Internet to flourish as an open platform for communication and innovation.

We need to reject calls to involve the ITU in cybersecurity or to endorse content controls by governments.

That’s why, from the start, the FCC has been engaged with the rest of the U.S. government in the WCIT process, and why the dedicated U.S. team has been travelling nonstop for the last several months across the Americas, Africa, Europe, and Asia to promote competition and protect a free and open Internet.

Changes to Internet governance that suppress innovation will not drive broadband deployment. The opposite is true.

Balkanizing the Internet will not grow any country’s economy. The opposite is true.

We are in the midst of a broadband revolution. It has the power to grow our global economy, creating jobs, fostering innovation, and speeding game-changing improvements in health care, education, and public safety. Let’s ensure that we are doing everything we can to harness, and not hinder, that opportunity.

Together, let’s work to ensure the Internet’s vibrancy and prosperity, that we see at least as much Internetfueled innovation and investment in the next two decades as we’ve had in the last two Let’s choose this path because it is the path of prosperity within nations, and across all nations. It is the path, I firmly believe, to prosperity, peace and human dignity throughout the world.