While the Obama administration has signaled it is ready to hand over the keys to the internet’s basic domain name structure, last week two powerful Members of Congress described in detail why they do not think the current transition plan is ready for action. In particular, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) raised concerns over unanswered constitutional, human rights, free expression, and intellectual property questions.
In a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the chairmen called the agency’s current trajectory “misguided or, at the very least, premature.” In addition to fundamental questions about the constitutionality and legality of NTIA’s process, they also highlighted issues with the transition plan itself. For example, they said, “In their rush to meet artificial, politically imposed deadlines, the multi-stakeholder working groups have failed to address important issues regarding freedom of speech and human rights.” Also, contrary to NTIA guarantees beforehand, the chairmen point out that “under the current proposal, the power of foreign governments would be significantly increased.” In their letter, they indicate their committees “are committed to ongoing oversight” and demand that NTIA provide answers to a number of serious questions about the transition plan within the next few weeks.
Also raising attention to this subject was Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the sponsor of NRB-backed legislation that would require the full Congress to approve any internet transition plan before it is implemented. Speaking at the Heritage Foundation yesterday, Sen. Cruz said, “Right now, the Obama administration’s proposal to give away the internet is an extraordinary threat to our freedom and it’s one that many Americans don’t know anything about. It is scheduled to go into effect September 30, 2016. We are not far away.” He, too, pointed to the constitutional questions about the transition and the dangers to giving regimes like China, Russia, and Iran more levers of online power. He also highlighted other radical attempts to censor speech, for example, by the pressure to stamp out “hate speech,” a term with a definition that “can be very, very malleable.” Sen. Cruz declared, “We are facing the very real possibility of speech being censored in the name of ‘hate speech.’ It is hate to express a view different from whatever the prevailing orthodoxy of the government is.” In conclusion, noting that this issue should bring all on the Left and Right together, he called on Americans “to speak out for freedom.”
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: July 8, 2016