Taxing overseas issues for Silicon Valley giants, plus talk about Internet control

Do wireless operators in Europe want to tax U.S.-based Internet companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Netflix and more?

That’s what leaked documents suggest. CNet reports that the proposal has been offered for debate in December before a U.N. agency called the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). But the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association (ETNO) denies it’s pushing such a tax, according to IDG News. Instead, it says it is advocating commercial deals among telecom providers and the companies that provide online content. Such deals, however, could raise net-neutrality — the notion of equal treatment of all Internet traffic — issues.

This latest news comes on the heels of concerns raised in the United States last week that the United Nations is plotting to take control of the Internet. Republicans and Democrats alike hate the very thought, and Google evangelist Vint Cerf reportedly testified that the ITU’s proposed changes — which include taking over some of the duties of the U.S.-based ICANN — could have “profound — and I believe potentially hazardous — implications for the future of the Internet and all of its users.” ICANN coordinates domain names, IP addresses and more, basically handling how people reach the Internet. The ITU is scheduled to consider changes to rules governing international communications traffic. According to the IDG article, those rules were last updated in 1988. This would have been around the time when mobile phones from pioneers such as Motorola looked like bricks and ran on 1G networks; Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was 4 years old; and about a decade before Netflix and Google were founded and Apple launched the iPhone.

The ITU stressed to TechCrunch this week that International Telecommunications Regulations are non-binding for its member states, which includes the U.S. In addition, the TechCrunch article points out that among the ITU’s members are 193 countries and more than 700 private-sector entities and academic institutions, including Apple and other Silicon Valley companies.


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  • John Kahler

    Maybe I’m showing my age, but in 1988 there was no World Wide Web, Apple was producing about the 3rd generation of Macs, and the iMac was still a decade in the future. I worked at an academic medical center and saw the Internet very much from the leading edge, where Telnet was the thing. If the rules are this old, it’s like being in the age of dial phones. Things today have almost no resemblance in so many ways to those days (though the basic structure of the Internet is still the foundation – a testament to the brilliant minds and shared responsibility that built the Net).

  • Levi Sumagaysay

    Thanks for the great points, John. Maybe the examples I mentioned show my age!

  • Doug K

    Don’t forget about Gopher!! . . .