H.Con.Res. 127: Expressing the sense of Congress regarding actions to preserve and advance the multistakeholder governance model under which the Internet has thrived

H.Con.Res. 127

Expressing the sense of Congress regarding actions to preserve and advance the multistakeholder governance model under which the Internet has thrived

Date
August 1, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, August 1, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H. Con. Res. 127, a bill expressing the sense of Congress regarding actions to preserve and advance the multistakeholder governance model under which the Internet has thrived, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval.  H. Con. Res. 127 was introduced by Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) on May 30, 2012, and was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which held a mark-up and reported the bill on June 20, 2012.

Bill Summary

H. Con. Res. 127 would “resolve that it is the sense of Congress that the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, in consultation with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and United States Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, should continue working to implement the position of the United States on Internet governance that clearly articulates the consistent and unequivocal policy of the United States to promote a global Internet free from government control and preserve and advance the successful multistakeholder model that governs the Internet today.”

Background

According to the House Report 112-564, “Pending international proposals to regulate the Internet could jeopardize not only its vibrancy, but also the economic and social benefits it brings to the world. Nations from across the globe will consider changes to the International Telecommunications Regulations at the December 2012 World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai. These regulations, adopted by treaty, govern the international operation of traditional telephone service. Some countries, however, are proposing to expand them and the jurisdiction of the United Nations' International Telecommunication Union to apply to the Internet.

“The Internet has been successful because it has been managed under a multistakeholder model in which a number of non-governmental institutions oversee critical parts of its architecture with input from private- and public-sector participants. This bottom-up, decentralized structure mirrors the decentralized nature of the networks that make up the Internet itself. It maximizes flexibility and innovation, helping to prevent any one governmental or non-governmental actor from exerting control over either the design of the Internet or the content it carries. That is why the Internet has been able to evolve and grow so quickly, both as a technological platform and as a means of expanding the free flow of commerce and ideas. Deviation from that multistakeholder model weakens the Internet, harming its ability to spread both prosperity and freedom. Consequently, there is bipartisan agreement that the United States should stand firm in international negotiations and oppose any treaty provisions at the WCIT that expand the jurisdiction of the ITU to cover the Internet.

“The Internet finds its roots in ARPANET, launched in 1969 by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to connect universities and research laboratories working on Department of Defense projects. Over the next two decades, ARPANET transitioned from a government network to include civilian users under the auspices of the National Science Foundation and became NSFNET. As the NSFNET grew and standards evolved to connect computer networks, a larger `network of networks' emerged. Then, in 1992, the Scientific and Advanced-Technology Act allowed the NSFNET to interconnect with other non-governmental networks and opened the door to commercial participation. It was at this point that the network began to grow exponentially, and the modern Internet was born.

“When network use was limited to U.S. government purposes, the Department of Defense managed the network. By the 1990s, however, most of the growth was coming from non-military users, and the NSF created the Internet Network Information Center (InterNIC) to manage both numeric addressing on the networks as well as the databases of sites. As the number of commercial users grew, Internet addressing and domain name management became exceedingly complex. By 1998 these functions were moved completely out of the U.S. government and control of InterNIC was transferred to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a California non-profit corporation contracted by the Department of Commerce to manage a number of Internet-related tasks.

“A series of ad hoc groups form the engineering corps of the Internet. The Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Architecture Board, the Internet Engineering Steering Group, and the Internet Research Task Force, now collectively organized under the international non-profit Internet Society, are run by volunteers and all work to create voluntary standards for Internet users to make interconnection of all networks easier.

“ICANN, as well as the groups that oversee the creation of voluntary Internet standards under the auspices of the Internet Society, receive input from governments, Internet users, corporations investing in the Internet, academics, and engineers that develop the technology that makes the Internet possible. The flexibility of this governance structure, referred to as the `multistakeholder model,' is what has enabled the explosive growth of the Internet as a driver of jobs, commerce, social discourse, and innovation.

“International telecommunications service is governed pursuant to regulations adopted through treaty by the 193 nation members of the International Telecommunications Union, the United Nations' specialized agency for information and communications technologies. The ITU was originally chartered in 1865 to organize the international regulation of telegraph service.

“The ITU convened the World Administrative Telegraph and Telephone Conference in 1988 to consider a `new' regulatory framework for the international regulation of telecommunications. Among the resulting International Telecommunications Regulations were revisions to the way telecommunications providers pay each other for completing international phone calls, often referred to as `settlement rates.' The United States Senate ratified the International Telecommunications Regulations in 1992. These regulations specifically addressed voice telephony, not data processing capabilities, and resulted in large payments to telephone companies often owned or controlled by governments.

“The ITU will consider changes to the International Telecommunications Regulations at the December 2012 World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai. Proposals by Russia and China to establish an `information security' regime are of particular concern. They: (1) appear to enshrine an international cybersecurity regime; (2) could serve as a justification for countries to engage in Internet censorship in the name of national security; and (3) seek to authorize regulation of the Internet by an international governmental body within the ITU, replacing the multistakeholder model that has served the Internet and the world so well.

“Proposals by a number of countries to regulate rates for the international exchange of Internet traffic is also of concern. The settlement regime for telecommunications traffic was developed for old technology in a less competitive environment, and even then resulted in high rates. It is ill suited to the dynamic and diverse technology and more competitive environment of the Internet, especially since the Internet does not adhere to political boundaries. A top-down regulatory regime quickly would become untenable.”

Cost

The Congressional Budget Office has not prepared a cost estimate for H. Con. Res. 127.