The House Thursday voted essentially to amend the DOTCOM Act to a must-pass defense bill.
The vote was 245 to 177, with 17 Democrats joining Republicans in approving the amendment, which requires a government study be completed before the U.S. hand off of domain naming oversight functions, to the National Defense Authorization Act currently being debated on the House floor.
The language added to the bill mirrors that in the act, which was drafted by Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and passed by the house Energy & Commerce Committee earlier this month.
The bill would require the GAO to complete a report on the National Telecommunications & Information Administration's planned hand-off of some oversight of the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) domain naming system in favor of a multistakeholder model. Democrats say that is a mostly ceremonial function, that the plan has always been to transfer that to a multistakeholder model, and that not to do so sends the wrong signal about single-government authority over the Internet.
Republicans say that they don't want to give the administration carte blanche to make the transfer without the NTIA plan getting a vetting from the Government Accountability Office.
“Today the U.S. Congress signaled that we will do all we can to ensure the Internet continues to serve as the greatest engine of economic activity, job creation, and social discourse the world has ever seen. Nations like Russia, China, and Iran would like nothing more than to wrest control of the Internet,” said E&C chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) following the vote. “Including the DOTCOM Act in this must-pass legislation is the right decision as we continue pushing for the administration to hit the pause button and allow for independent review before it makes any move to relinquish NTIA’s oversight role of critical Internet functions.”
Following the DOTCOM Act's addition to the defense bill, the National Telecommunications & Information Adminstration pointed to a letter that the General Counsel of the Department of Commerce sent to Upton earlier this month opposing the DOTCOM Act.
Genreal Counsel Kelly Welsh said Congress was free to request a GAO report, which it can do without passing legislation, but that the Administration is opposed to what he said was "substituting the judgment of the GAO or any other government entity for the multistakeholder process" or delaying what Welsh pointed out was a long-standing plan of transitioning management of the domain naming system (DNS) to the private sector. Welsh made the point that the hand-off was a transition from government to private sector.