House Communications Subcommittee To Mark Up DOTCOM Bill

Legislation would require GAO study of a proposal to phase out U.S. ICANN oversight role
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The House Communications Subcommittee will mark up the DOTCOM (Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters) Act on April 9 and 10, with opening statements the first day and amendments and a presumed vote the next.

The bill, authored by Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) would require a GAO study before the Obama Administration could take any action on a proposal to phase out the U.S. role in oversight of ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) in favor of a multistakeholder model.

The U.S. wants to send the signal that it is not the province of any one government, but some Republicans and even some Democrats—former President Bill Clinton notably among them—have expressed concerns that the U.S. move could create a vacuum filed by countries like China or Russia.

It was that same bipartisan concern that drove Congress last year to pass unanimously a resolution supporting the multistakeholder model of Internet governance. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) pointed to that resolution in arguing last week that the ICANN handoff was in the same spirit since it was sending the signal that there should be a multistakeholder model for naming oversight, rather than U.S. oversight.

Fadi Chehadé, president of ICANN, at a Hill hearing on the proposed ICANN move in the subcommittee last week said that would not happen becuase ICANN would not accept any such plan. But Republicans did not seem assuaged, preferring a "trust but verify" model and offering up the GAO study as a way to insure that verification. Some Democrats see the call for a study as a delaying tactic.

The DOTCOM bill also talks about replacing the U.S. role with a multistakeholder model, but "4342 would direct the Government Accountability Office to study the proposed changes and present a non-partisan evaluation before the administration may take action to modify the current DNS."

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