Critics question wording of Internet freedom bill

The Republican bill could limit the U.S. FCC and other agencies, some digital rights groups say

By , IDG News Service |  Internet

Republican members of the subcommittee said they were confused about the objections to the bill, when Democratic lawmakers supported the earlier resolution containing similar language. The bill is aimed at preventing an Internet takeover by the ITU, said Representative Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican.

"With all the problems we face domestically and internationally, the last thing we need is to back away from aggressively defending Internet freedom," she said. "Failing to [pass the bill] would send an incredibly bad and discouraging message to the rest of the world and put our innovators here at home in a very difficult position."

Congress must make it clear it opposes international regulations of the Internet, added Walden, author of the bill. Last December's WCIT "was the start, not the end, of international efforts to regulate the Internet," he said. "And just as international opponents of an Internet free from government control are redoubling their efforts so, too, must we."

Earlier Wednesday, in letters to the committee, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute, and the Computer and Communications Industry Association also raised concerns about the language in the bill, offered by Walden.

The ambiguous wording of the bill could be seen as U.S. opposition to international groups working together on Internet issues, CDT and New America said.

"In the United States, consumer protection statutes, antitrust laws, and other state and federal regulations have formed a policy framework aimed at protecting users and promoting competition, both online and off," their letter said. "Just as Congress did not want to cede the United States' ability to institute national policy to an international institution, it should not curtail its own ability to address domestic issues through well-considered national legislation developed by a democratically elected Congress."

The subcommittee will continue its markup of the Internet freedom legislation on Thursday.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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