U.S. stance on net neutrality resonates internationally, could face U.N., WTO opposition

Where the U.S. eventually lands on the issue of net neutrality could have wider reaching international implications, including the possibility of rankling the U.N. and World Trade Organization (WTO).

At home, 60 companies, including Broadcom, Cisco, Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC), IBM, Intel and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), signed on to a letter penned by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) that opposes President Barack Obama's stance that the Internet should be regulated as a basic utility under Title II as a means of making sure everyone has equal access to the Internet.

This, the companies said, would adversely impact technology companies that are opposed to any regulation of how service providers handle Internet traffic.

"The robust support for this letter demonstrates that Title II is a significant threat to the tech companies that build and support the Internet," Scott Belcher, chief executive of the TIA, said in a prepared statement carried by EE Times.

Worldwide, any changes to the current models of free and neutral Internet access could get the U.S. in trouble, two human rights professors at George Washington University Law School said in an FCC filing cited by The Washington Post.

Arturo Carrillo, director of GW's International Human Rights Clinic, and Professor Dawn Nunziato argued against any form of paid prioritization that would expose the U.S. to complaints from the U.N. and WTO.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's stance would mean "only those companies and organizations with deep enough pockets will be able to afford to pay for 'fast lanes,' making their information, ideas and opinions more readily accessible to Internet users, while less well-funded information, ideas and opinions will be relegated to 'slow lanes,'" the professors argued.

The U.N., the two argued, would take exception because this rule change could impact that body's human rights stance that "the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression." The WTO, they added, would be opposed because the changes would impact "non-discriminatory access" to telecom networks in member countries.

Meanwhile, the German government is apparently starting to waffle on where it stands, moving toward supporting the idea that telecoms could offer "special services" at higher speeds, according to a story in Business Spectator.

This would align with the stance taken by former state-owned telco Deutsche Telekom, which has argued that net neutrality is just the "privileging of American companies," said spokesman Philipp Blank. "If we really want to guarantee the quality of data transmission needed for e-health applications, driving cars and industrial processes, then we need another payment model."

For more:
- EE Times has this story
- The Washington Post has this story
- and Business Spectator has this story

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