Will the UN impose a global Internet tax on Facebook, Google?

Posted Jun 13, 2012 by Andrew Moran
Leaked documents from the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association (ETNO) suggests that the United Nations is considering a global Internet tax targeting some of the largest web content providers, such as Google and Facebook.
Facebook and Google logos
Facebook and Google logos
CNET broke the news last week that the ETNO, a lobbying organization based in Brussels, is asking the United Nations to amend an existing telecommunications treaty, which would lead to the implementation of a new global Internet tax that would target some of the largest web content providers.
The proposal was submitted late last year during a meeting of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a UN agency. According to the leaked documents, the initiative would impose higher costs on popular websites and networks for the dispensation of giving service to non-United States users.
ETNO is currently representing companies in at least 35 nations who want the ITU to order these fees. It was reported last year that many European companies were complaining about U.S. companies wanting providers, such as Apple, who allocate astronomical amounts of data, to pay fees associated with usage.
Opponents of this measure say this would hinder access to the Internet by those in poor or developing nations. They also argue over the ambiguity of enforcement.
CNN (via Fox News) is reporting that the Obama administration and congressional Republicans have commented on the leaked reports. Both the administration and GOP representatives say such a tax would reshape the Internet landscape and could permit governments to restrict its citizens’ Internet access.
According to, Ambassador Philip Verveer, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state and the U.S. coordinator of international communications and information policy, said this initiative could restrict content and add unwanted economic costs across the globe.
Meanwhile, Robert McDowell, FCC Commissioner, believes the new tax is being tabled “to fund the build-out of broadband infrastructure across the globe."
Charles C.W. Cooke of the National Review opined on the news and wrote that the present Internet system has done extremely well and certainly does not need the interference of government and its taxes and regulations.
“It is just 22 years since British computer engineer Tim Berners-Lee developed the language and architecture behind the World Wide Web and turned an electronic delivery mechanism that the American government had been developing since the 1960s into an information system with almost unlimited potential,” wrote Cooke. “His idea has caught on.”
The documents can be viewed in-depth here and here.