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Oft-Divided House Still United Against ITU-Centric Net Governance

House Energy & Commerce Committee members took turns Tueday afternoon speaking in support of a resolution calling on the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to resist imposing a top-down government model for Internet governance. That is one of five bills being marked up in the committee Wednesday.

Several legislators spoke in stark terms of a potential UN takeover of the 'net. But it is not only the Hill that is concerned that at an upcoming treaty conference in Dubai in December -- the World Conference on International Telecommunications -- some of the 193 members, led by Russia and China, will be proposing extending ITU's oversight of international phone traffic, to Internet traffic.

Both the FCC and the White House agree a multistakeholder model should be preserved.

At a House Communications Subcommittee hearing in May on ITU-centric governance of the net, Republicans and Democrats presented a united front for retaining the multi-stakeholder model.

In her opening statement, which was sent to reporters, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif,), ranking member of the Communications Subcommittee, expressed her support for H. Con. Res. 127. It has no force of law, but would express the sense of Congress that the open, multistakeholder model of governance be preserved. "I urge my colleagues to adopt this bipartisan resolution and unite in opposition to proposals that threaten the innovation, openness and transparency enjoyed by Internet users around the world... In addition to imposing new regulations on broadband services, several nations, including Russia, China, and Iran, are set on asserting intergovernmental control over the Internet leading to a balkanized Internet where censorship could become the new norm."

Republicans reading their statements made no bones about their concerns. Lead sponsor of the resolution, Rep. Mary Bono Mack, said there were now 49 co-sponsors and support from the Chamber of Commerce. She said that if China and Russia got the unprecedented power over the 'net that they sought, it could become a wasteland of unfulfilled hopes and dreams.