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A United Nations agency opens debate on Monday over whether it should begin to regulate the Internet. The most hotly contested proposals come from European telecommunications providers and African and Arab countries that want big content providers to pay to send data across their networks.
The concept—known as “sender pays”—would radically alter today’s Internet economics. Some countries say their networks are groaning under video and other content provided in large part by U.S. companies such as Facebook, Netflix, and Google. These countries suggest that fees on content providers would help defray local infrastructure costs.
At a conference that begins Monday in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 193 member countries will decide whether the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency, should somehow start regulating the Internet through updates to its International Telecommunication Regulations. The ITU sets worldwide standards and does things like coördinate use of radio spectrum and long-distance telephone calls. But it hasn’t updated its regulations since 1988 and doesn’t cover the Internet.
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