Russia, China and other countries back a move to place the Internet under the authority of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a UN agency that sets technical standards for global phone calls.
While US officials have said placing the Internet under UN control would undermine the freewheeling nature of cyberspace, some have said there is a perception that the US owns and manages the Internet.
The head of the ITU, Hamadoun Toure, claims his agency has "the depth of experience that comes from being the world's longest established intergovernmental organization." But Harold Feld of the US-based non-government group Public Knowledge said any new rules could have devastating consequences. Some are concerned over a proposal by European telecom operators seeking to shift the cost of communication from the receiving party to the sender. This could mean huge costs for US Internet giants like Facebook and Google.
"There is no Internet central office. Its openness and decentralization are its strengths," Terry Kramer, the special US envoy for the talks, said, reminding that Washington is opposing proposals by Russia, China and others to expand the ITU's authority to regulate the Internet.
Paul Rohmeyer, who follows cybersecurity at the Stevens Institute of Technology, pointed to a "sense of anxiety" about the meeting in part because of a lack of transparency. He said it was unclear why the ITU is being considered for a role in the Internet.
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