During a meeting in Morocco on Thursday, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) decided to submit an Internet domain name oversight transition plan to the U.S. Government. ICANN Board Chair Dr. Stephen D. Crocker stated, “This plan is a testament to the hard work of the global Internet community and the strength of the multistakeholder model…. an historic moment in the history of the Internet.”
The U.S. National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) will now review ICANN’s proposal. Of note, the Obama Administration has been supportive of such a transition of authority over the Internet’s basic structure. However, last year’s omnibus appropriations bill included a prohibition on any movement by the federal government toward this end during FY2016. Members of Congress have numerous concerns, including the worry that a foreign government could attempt to fill the power vacuum and undermine Internet freedom. Additionally, four key Members of Congress – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) – have publicly questioned whether such a move may violate the Constitution.
House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) has scheduled a hearing on this issue next Thursday. While appreciating ICANN’s hard work on this proposal, Rep. Walden joined with other key committee leaders, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), and Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), in warning, “This final step of removing U.S. government oversight of the IANA functions is irreversible and we must be sure the transition will not harm the Internet or the millions of Americans that rely on it. There are no do-overs. Once the U.S. relinquishes its role in IANA, that’s it, there’s no going back. We must get it right."
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: March 11, 2016