This week the Obama administration signaled its support for a plan to relinquish U.S. oversight authority over the internet’s basic domain name structure. Notably, this announcement came one day after the introduction of a bill backed by NRB that would require the full Congress to approve any transition plan before it is implemented.
Numerous observers, including a number of Members of Congress, have questioned the plan now supported by the Executive Branch. In particular, they have noted that the proposal submitted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) creates new powers for governments that could be misused. In a press release this week, Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, highlighted the dangers of repressive governments harming internet freedom and said, “We must be very careful not to allow such regimes to extend their influence over the very core of the internet.”
As a safeguard, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Congressman Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) introduced the Protecting Internet Freedom Act, which would prohibit the Executive Branch from allowing its oversight over internet domain functions, including the authoritative root zone file, to lapse or be relinquished unless specifically authorized to do so by an Act of Congress. It also would require certification that the U.S. has exclusive ownership and control over the vital .gov and .mil domains.
In NRB’s release, Dr. Johnson noted:
While it is right to keep a careful eye on our own government, particularly in light of the FCC’s net neutrality power grab, the fact remains that the U.S. has for decades largely kept its hands off the development of the internet while ensuring that other nations did not hinder its organic growth. Less government involvement is generally in the best interests of free speech. But where governments are involved, we must insist on the principles and protections of America’s First Amendment.
Regarding this new legislation, Dr. Johnson affirmed that it “will ensure that the representatives of the American people in Congress are convinced of the airtight merits of any transition plan before it advances. There is only one shot to get such a move right.”
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: June 10, 2016