There has been a lot of heated rhetoric about the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), which is wrapping up its meeting in Dubai this week. Last week, the US Congress unanimously declared its opposition to giving the UN body increased control over the Internet. Congress is prone to making melodramatic gestures, but even more sober-minded entities such as Google and Mozilla seem to agree that WCIT is a danger to the open Internet.
That's puzzling, because the ITU as an organization doesn't have any direct regulatory powers. It can't fine anyone or put them in jail for defying its rules. Moreover, the proposals under discussion at Dubai, including last week's draft by a coalition of authoritarian regimes and a Tuesday proposal by the ITU's chairman, don't give the Geneva-based ITU Secretariat new powers. They merely declare that "member states" shall have the power to regulate the Internet to promote security, fight spam, and so forth.
But the "member states" are sovereign nations. They've been regulating the Internet for years without the ITU's blessing and are going to continue doing so regardless of what is decided at the conclusion of this week's conference.