A number of countries are trying to place the Internet under the UN's control—and the US needs to push back, and soon, writes L. Gordon Crovitz in the Wall Street Journal. The Web is so successful exactly because it's not run by any government. But that's also why many nations oppose its open nature, which makes it difficult to censor or tax. So China, Russia, Iran, and Arab countries have been lobbying for the International Telecommunications Union—"a UN agency that has nothing to do with the Internet"—to take over its rules and workings.
The ITU's negotiating conference is next week, and ideas for its proposed new treaty on communications include things like assessing a "sender-party-pays" fee to websites for each foreign visitor (in the hopes of encouraging them to cut off service to international users altogether), and rules allowing countries to monitor or block Internet traffic routed through them. "Having the Internet rewired by bureaucrats would be like handing a Stradivarius to a gorilla," Crovitz writes, and the State Department's top delegate to the conference has said that the US doesn't want to "come across like we're preaching to others." But that's exactly what he, and the US, must do, Crovitz concludes. "Preach the virtues of the open Internet as forcefully as possible." Click for his full column. (Read more United Nations stories.)