Update: The Wall Street Journal (via Hot Air) explains some more about why this is a terrible thing if it happens:
Having the Internet rewired by bureaucrats would be like handing a Stradivarius to a gorilla. The Internet is made up of 40,000 networks that interconnect among 425,000 global routes, cheaply and efficiently delivering messages and other digital content among more than two billion people around the world, with some 500,000 new users a day. [...]Google fortunately understands the problems that could be faced here, and has launched an online campaign to protest. It's astonishing how only so many countries across the world continue to support an entity like the UN that is not dedicated to justice, human rights and peace so much as it is in greed and power grabbing. When will any nation with sense finally wake up and realize that it's time to part ways with the UN for good?
The self-regulating Internet means no one has to ask for permission to launch a website, and no government can tell network operators how to do their jobs. The arrangement has made the Internet a rare place of permissionless innovation. As former Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard recently pointed out, 90% of cooperative “peering” agreements among networks are “made on a handshake,” adjusting informally as needs change.
Proposals for the new ITU treaty run to more than 200 pages. One idea is to apply the ITU’s long-distance telephone rules to the Internet by creating a “sender-party-pays” rule. International phone calls include a fee from the originating country to the local phone company at the receiving end. Under a sender-pays approach, U.S.-based websites would pay a local network for each visitor from overseas, effectively taxing firms such as Google and Facebook.