Cruz, Lankford, Lee, and Duffy question NTIA’s potential violation of federal law
Back in 2014, the Obama administration announced its plan to “give up its last remaining authority over the technical management of the internet” by giving “the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an international nonprofit group, control over the database of names and addresses that allows computers around the world to connect to each other.”
The response in many quarters was less than enthusiastic.
The New Republic noted at the time:
A Wall Street Journal columnist described it as “America’s Internet surrender.” Said one member of Congress: “Giving up control of ICANN will allow countries like China and Russia, that don’t place the same value in freedom of speech, to better define how the internet looks and operates.”
From a former Bush administration official in the Daily Caller: “This is the Obama equivalent of Carter’s decision to give away the Panama Canal—only with possibly much worse consequences.” (Namely, to “endanger the security of both the Internet and the U.S.—and open the door to a global tax on Web use.”) And Newt Gingrich: “Every American should worry about Obama giving up control of the internet to an undefined group. This is very, very dangerous.”
The venerable information technology publication The Register summed it up this way: “US govt: You, ICANN. YOU can run the internet. We quit.” And from the National Journal: “When U.S. Steps Back, Will Russia and China Control the Internet?” As Betteridge’s Law of Headlines suggests, the answer is no. Indeed, the truth is much less salacious—and far more interesting—than any of the reactions above.
According to The Atlantic, also in 2014, even supporters of the move intended to “watch the transaction closely.”
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, called the announcement a “hostile step” against free speech.
“Giving up control of ICANN will allow countries like China and Russia that don’t place the same value in freedom of speech to better define how the internet looks and operates,” she said in a statement.
Critics warn that U.S. control of the domain system has been a check against the influence of authoritarian regimes over ICANN, and in turn the Internet.
But other advocacy groups, businesses, and lawmakers have praised the administration’s announcement — while also saying they plan to watch the transition closely.
This week, Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), James Lankford (R-OK), and Mike Lee (R-UT) and Representative Sean Duffy (R-WI) have written a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) “questioning the agency’s apparent violation of federal law in using federal funds to relinquish U.S. oversight of the Internet.”
From the press release on Cruz’s Senate site:
U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), today sent a letter to National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Assistant Secretary Lawrence Strickling, questioning the agency’s apparent violation of federal law in using federal funds to relinquish U.S. oversight of the Internet.
“As you know, Section 539 of the Fiscal Year 2016 Omnibus (Public Law No. 114-113) states, ‘None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to relinquish the responsibility of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, during fiscal year 2016, with respect to Internet domain name system functions, including responsibility with respect to the authoritative root zone file and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority functions,’” the senators and congressman wrote.
“We believe that NTIA has violated that prohibition by funding projects whose only conceivable purpose is to facilitate the proposed transition of responsibility to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).”
Yesterday, Cruz posted a video addressing the issue.
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