Bill Would Promote Greater Transparency, Accountability & Allow Resolution of Legal Problems
WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, Sen. Ted Cruz, along with co-sponsors Sens. Mike Lee and James Lankford, will introduce the Protecting Internet Freedom Act, which would require Congressional approval before the Department of Commerce may transfer oversight of the Internet domain name system to an international group.
Despite a Congressional appropriations rider explicitly barring it from doing so, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is currently (and illegally) reviewing a proposal to give up control of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) by the end of September. IANA involves the global system of unique names and numbers used in Internet protocol.
Supporters of the bill have argued that the transition as currently proposed fails to ensure that ICANN would remain accountable to its stakeholders and would ultimately give greater control over the Internet to repressive foreign governments.
“The Internet is far too important to rush this transition,” said Berin Szóka, President of TechFreedom. “Unfortunately, the Administration has viewed this transition as a cheap way to recover the global political credibility it lost because of the Snowden revelations and its own stubborn resistance to real surveillance reforms. They simply haven’t been willing to negotiate to protect ICANN’s multistakeholder model. Most notably, ICANN ignored a clear consensus among its community that maintaining accountability of the organization required giving the stakeholders clear legal rights as members to approve budgets and review documents. Instead, the ICANN board has left its stakeholders with the ineffective remedy of removing Board members.”
“Congress has already told NTIA to cease further work, and has been ignored,” continued Szóka. “It’s time to mandate Congressional approval of the transition. This would not only ensure more meaningful transparency and accountability mechanisms, it could also address two potentially catastrophic legal issues.
- ICANN and Verisign, the company that administers IANA, have been shielded from antitrust liability by virtue of being government contractors. Take that away and they could be sued, which in turn would push ICANN into the arms of the International Telecommunications Union. This would re-establish antitrust immunity but also transfer control of the Internet to repressive foreign governments.”
- If a U.S. court rules that the IANA function constituted government property, the transition as planned would violate the Constitution’s requirement that Congress authorize disposition of government assets. Unwinding the transition after the fact would cause enormous geopolitical blowback.