If you can believe it, the end of 2012 is fast approaching. Some of us filled with glee; some of us filled with anxiety that the holidays and New Year are just around the corner. But the end of 2012 is also bringing a critical issue to the forefront of the U.S. and global agenda: the future of the Internet.
Several events in Washington, D.C. over the past few weeks have caught our attention regarding the innovation economy, Internet regulatory policy, and the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) that all have tremendous economic and social implications globally, nationally, and in Silicon Valley.
With the elections (finally) over, tech and policy experts assembled at the Brookings Institution for “A First 100 Days Innovation Agenda for the Next Administration” focusing on how policymakers can encourage growth through innovation and entrepreneurship, ensure robust communications infrastructure, and protect our digital products and services. The American Enterprise Institute’s and Mercatus Center’s star-studded tech panels discussed key issues, expectations and the U.S. position on the upcoming WCIT (pronounced “wicket”) conference.
At the WCIT conference in Dubai in December, some countries are expected to lobby for proposals that would move away from the current multi-stakeholder private sector Internet governance model to one that puts control into an international government dominated model. AEI’s event titled, “Should the UN control the Internet?" has become the question of the year—a question with monumental consequences for a free and open Internet and the cutting edge innovations spawned from it.
Last week’s convening of government and Internet industry leaders in the nation’s capital leave us somewhat reassured that America’s tech and policy leaders are taking this international threat to Internet freedom and innovation seriously. But, the tech capital of the world, Silicon Valley, has to pay equally close attention to what’s happening in the international scene, like WCIT, because it’s a direct threat to its prosperity.
So here in the Valley, CALinnovates is hosting its own panel discussion at Stanford Law School on Tuesday, November 27, Sticky WCIT: Is this the End of the Internet? We'll have our own all-star tech panel moderated by author and Forbes contributor Larry Downes discussing the impact the WCIT conference could have on innovative freedom that has been central to the Internet’s evolution, to economic gains for nations worldwide and to Silicon Valley’s prosperity.
Now is the time for America to take preemptive action against dictatorial proposals to control the Internet and to lead by example via a federal agenda promoting private investment and innovation in Internet services and infrastructure. Silicon Valley can play a critical role in these efforts by talking to its representatives and investors about global actions and federal policies that can steer a prosperous (or impoverished) digital future in 2013 and beyond. These events from DC to SV are a good start.