House Moves to Stall Obama’s Plan to Give Up Internet Authority

Republicans fear the administration’s proposal could allow Russia or China to seize new powers.

A picture taken on September 17, 2013 in Saint-Denis, outside Paris, shows a room of cabling servers 'clients' at the French branch of Digital Realty, a company involved in datacenter acquisition, ownership, development and operation. Digital Realty's customers include domestic and international companies across multiple industry verticals ranging from information technology and Internet enterprises, to manufacturing and financial services.
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
Add to Briefcase
Brendan Sasso
May 8, 2014, 8:33 a.m.

A House com­mit­tee voted along party lines Thursday to delay the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan to give up au­thor­ity over the In­ter­net’s ad­dress sys­tem.

The bill, the DOT­COM Act, now heads to the full House for con­sid­er­a­tion.

Re­pub­lic­ans fear the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan could al­low Rus­sia, China, or oth­er au­thor­it­ari­an re­gimes to seize new powers over the In­ter­net and even cen­sor web­sites.

Their le­gis­la­tion would re­quire that the Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­ab­il­ity Of­fice study the is­sue be­fore the Com­merce De­part­ment could give up its con­trac­tu­al au­thor­ity over the In­ter­net Cor­por­a­tion for As­signed Names and Num­bers — the non­profit group that man­ages the tech­nic­al pro­ced­ures that al­low com­puters around the world to con­nect to web­sites. The trans­fer of au­thor­ity over IC­ANN to the “glob­al In­ter­net com­munity” is sched­uled to take place next year.

Rep. Greg Walden, an Ore­gon Re­pub­lic­an, said the trans­ition is “ex­tremely im­port­ant to the fu­ture of the In­ter­net.”

“What we’re say­ing is can we just stop a minute and get GAO to take a look?”

He ar­gued that once the U.S. gives up its role in In­ter­net man­age­ment, it will be im­possible to ever get it back.

But Demo­crats ar­gue the plan is just the latest step in the U.S. gov­ern­ment’s long­time sup­port of the “multi-stake­hold­er” mod­el of In­ter­net gov­ernance, in which de­cisions are made by an ar­ray of non­profits, com­pan­ies, aca­dem­ics, and en­gin­eers.

“I don’t know where these sus­pi­cions have come from that there’s some black heli­copter something or oth­er in this,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Cali­for­nia Demo­crat.

The Demo­crats ar­gued that the bill would un­der­mine U.S. ef­forts to pro­mote In­ter­net freedoms around the world by mak­ing it ap­pear that the U.S. wants to have con­trol over the In­ter­net. 

The Re­pub­lic­ans on the En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee de­feated a Demo­crat­ic amend­ment that would have still called for a GAO study without stalling the In­ter­net power trans­fer.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced its form­al op­pos­i­tion to the DOT­COM Act earli­er this week, and its chances in the Sen­ate ap­pear slim.

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