Following a hearing last week on the Obama Administration's hand-off of internet domain name oversight to a multistakeholder group, unhappy Republicans led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) urged Democrats to join them in delaying the transition and pushing for more answers to troubling questions.
"It is profoundly disappointing that the Obama administration has decided to press on with its plan to relinquish United States oversight of crucial Internet functions, even though Congress has not given its approval," said most of a dozen Republican senators in a statement aimed at their Democratic colleagues. "For years, there has been a bipartisan understanding that the ICANN transition is premature and that critical questions remain unanswered about the influence of authoritarian regimes in Internet governance, the protection of free speech, the effect on national security, and impacts on consumers, just to name a few.
“Without adequate answers to these questions, it would be irresponsible to allow the transition to occur in 15 days simply because of an artificial deadline set by the Obama administration," they said.
They cited former President Bill Clinton warning: "'[A] lot of people who have been trying to take this authority away from the U.S. want to do it for the sole purpose of cracking down on Internet freedom and limiting it and having governments protect their backsides instead of empower[ing] their people.’"
Signing on to the statement in addition to Cruz were Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), James Lankford (Okla.), Mike Lee (Utah), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), and Roger Wicker (Miss.)
The National Telecommunications & Information Administration's contract with ICANN to oversee the internet domain naming (IANA) authority is due to expire at the end of this month. Republicans are worried that Russia or China would fill a perceived void left by the U.S. exit.
NTIA chief Larry Strickling, in testimony before the subcommittee, told the committee that delaying the privatization of IANA was what would be the gift to those regimes, saying that "failing to follow through on the transition or unilaterally extending the contract will only embolden authoritarian regimes to intensify their advocacy for government-led or intergovernmental management of the Internet via the United Nations."
NTIA signed off on a transition plan in June, saying the key elements had been met. They were:
• "Support and enhance the multistakeholder model;
• "Maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS;
• "Meet the needs and expectations of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and
• "Maintain the openness of the Internet."