When it comes to the economy, any bright spot is a spot worth taking a closer look at, and the digital economy is one such bright spot.
With growth in streaming video, online shopping and a wide variety of new possibilities, working online is offering significant opportunities. But if new rules go into play with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) – as some, like U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer, fear may be the case – it could have damaging and far-reaching effects on the overall digital economy.
Kramer, carrying a message that's somewhat standard for the United States – hands off the Internet – considering the responses to SOPA and PIPA, was in attendance at the ITU conference in Dubai, which roughly 150 countries total are attending to re-negotiate an ITU treaty from 1988, that therefore has few if any restrictions on the Internet as a whole.
A new treaty would likely put restrictions on the Internet, and in turn may do quite a bit of damage to the growing digital economy.
Kramer's message looks for not only reduced investment in online ventures, but also raised costs and reduced access as fewer firms took on the burdens imposed by government regulation. As such, the United States, via Kramer, is supporting limiting the ITU's debate strictly to conventional telecommunication systems – something that on which member states appear to agree.
Additionally, opening passages relating to the treaty's scope have also been approved in a fashion which the United States' coalition seems to support.
There seems to be only one sticking point left, a very important point, in which the treaty focuses on "recognized operating agencies" like conventional telecommunication operators and service providers, relative to just "operating agencies" which would include corporate figures like Google (News - Alert) and Facebook, as well as government networks.
Considering the success of companies like Google and Facebook, extra regulation seems rather unnecessary.
There are also issues of expense; some nations are pushing for companies like Google and the like to pay fees to serve as content providers in their countries as they're running into many of the same problems that United States service providers are: revenue from voice traffic are down, and the potential revenue from data traffic – especially video – would require massive investment in order to take full advantage, investment that those firms simply can't justify.
Yet at the same time, Kramer points out that if the cost burdens are shifted to the companies, they won't be able to justify the investment themselves and simply ignore countries in which they are too heavily charged.
This would yield an increase in the so-called "digital divide," in which data haves get all the access they could want while data have-nots go without.
As many would expect, this issue has spawned plenty of debate, with some even going so far as to say the United States should pull out of the UN and let them do as they please, while the United States continues to enjoy unfettered, untaxed access. The ultimate stance of the ITU remains to be seen, but hopefully they’ll come out in favor of leaving alone a market that is actually doing well despite a disastrous economy around it.
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Edited by Braden Becker