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EU Says Telecoms Treaty Should Not Expand Web Regulation

The European Union will oppose attempts to increase regulation of the Internet at a United Nations conference in Dubai next month as some countries call for tighter rules on phone operators and Web service providers.

Representatives of more than 190 governments will meet in Dubai from Dec. 3 to 14 to update a global treaty on regulations for the telecommunications sector. In an e-mailed statement, EU regulators today said some governments are trying to tighten the control of the Web.

“Some non-EU countries have tabled proposals for a significant increase in the scope of the treaty and the regulatory burden on operators, including Internet service providers,” according to the political body representing 27 European nations. “The EU believes that there is no justification for such proposals and is concerned about the potentially negative impact on innovation and costs.”

The Dubai gathering is organized by the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency, and aims to update the International Telecommunication Regulations Treaty as the previous conference took place in 1988 when the Internet was not widely used and many phone operators were still state monopolies.

U.S. companies including AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and News Corp. have joined forces to oppose efforts by China, Russia and other countries to extend ITU jurisdiction to Internet matters, David Gross, an attorney with the law firm Wiley Rein in Washington who is leading the effort, said in an interview this year.

Online Censorship

Involvement by organizations like the ITU may imperil Internet innovation and lead to online censorship, said Gross.

U.S. policy makers have also voiced concern that the UN agency will take steps toward Internet regulation at the Dubai conference.

“Several governments recently called for new treaty provisions to assert centralized control over the Internet’s operations instead of relying on the voluntary, consensus-based processes that gave us the Internet we enjoy today,” three Obama administration officials wrote in a May 2 White House blog post.

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