Internet Freedom Hearing Includes Rare Moment of Congressional Consensus
Internet Freedom Hearing Includes Rare Moment of Congressional Consensus
Internet Freedom Hearing Includes Rare Moment of Congressional Consensus

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    In today’s political climate, it is rare to
    hear a unified voice from Congress, especially one pertaining to regulation. In
    today’s House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology’s hearing on
    “Fighting for Internet Freedom: Dubai and Beyond” one such voice was heard. The
    overall consensus from member participants was a clear demand to keep the
    Internet open and free. Held jointly with the Subcommittee on Terrorism,
    Nonproliferation and Trade and the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health,
    Global Human Rights and International Organizations. The hearing focused on
    last December’s World Conference on International Telecommunications convened
    by the ITU in


    Public Knowledge’s Harold Feld testified
    on behalf of civil society. As an advisory member to the US delegation to
    Dubai, Harold was positioned to give a first hand account of both the successes
    and difficulties of working within a multi-stakeholder approach. While Public
    Knowledge considers the inclusion of civil society within the US delegation an
    important step
    , there were limitations to which civil society was able to
    participate. It is also important to recognize the difficulties this approach
    presents to stakeholders from developing nations that cannot participate to the
    degree in which other delegations can. This creates both an opportunity and
    challenge for the US, both domestically and abroad.

    As revealed in the testimony, there was a
    clear line drawn in the sand between the US and allies and those countries that
    sought to ensure that Internet governance was included within ITR’s; regulations that are an opportunity to tackle
    many other issues at the convergence of business and government. Although efforts were made by countries
    such as China, Saudi Arabia and Russia to push proposals
    that would drastically change the open nature of the Internet, many were successfully rebuffed.

    However this very attempt, as stated by panelist
    FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, is proof of the incremental behavior and
    commitment of the governments of countries like China to move forward with an
    agenda of censorship. The active inclusion of language by member states that
    attempt to expand government control over free expression caused the United
    States, along with 53 other countries, to refuse to sign the
    However, the very attempt was the cause of much concern for the
    members of all committees, many of which emphasized the importance of opposing
    efforts to diminish the open framework of the Internet.

    Panelists and members discussed opportunities
    to oppose these efforts, through supporting a resolution
    maintaining US support for a global Internet free from government control and
    the continuation of a multi-stakeholder model that governs the Internet. Other
    options lie in fostering our relationships with delegations in developing
    nations. Nations that view the United States a global Internet leader, many of
    which are successfully engaged by organizations such as the Internet Society.

    forward, it is clear that the subject of Internet governance is at the
    forefront of congressional concern. Whether that concern can remain optimistic
    in nature depends on how we choose to engage others and the continued inclusion
    of civil society as a valued stakeholder.