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Dems Seek Help In Thwarting ICANN Amendment

Some House Democratic leaders and the Information Technology Industry Council are pushing back on an effort by Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) to block any funding of the planned U.S. handoff of ICANN domain naming function oversight.

In a "dear colleague" letter, California Reps. Henry Waxman and Anna Eshoo, ranking members of the Energy & Commerce Committee and Communications Subcommittee, respectively, asked other legislators to join them in opposing the amendment, expected to be offered May 29 or 30 on the omnibus, must-pass, appropriations bill H.R. 4660. That bill appropriates money for the 2015 fiscal year for various agencies including the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, which is planning to transition the U.S. Internet domain-naming oversight to a multistakeholder model.

House Republicans, and even some Democrats, have been critical of that move—the House just last week passed the DOTCOM Act as a rider to another must-pass bill. DOTCOM would require a GAO study on the hand-off's impact before it is allowed to proceed. Its backers say that is just taking a “trust but verify” approach. Opponents of the act say it is a delaying tactic.

"At its worst, the Duffy Amendment could interfere with NTIA’s ability to actively participate in and be at the table during the...transition process and increase the likelihood of a transition plan that replaces the U.S. government role with an inter-governmental solution espoused by Russia and China," Eshoo and Waxman wrote. "Furthermore, the detrimental and irresponsible message it would send is that the United States is backtracking on its support for the multistakeholder process, giving anti-democratic nations the ammunition they seek to expand their coalition of stakeholders favoring governmental control of the Internet. The Duffy Amendment would therefore greatly increase the likelihood of authoritarian control of the Internet, exactly the opposite outcome its author seeks and that we share as a nation."

In their own letter to House leadership, the Information Technology Industry Council and the Internet Association said there needs to be oversight to insure a successful handoff, but opposes any "disruption in resources" or anything that would prevent the successful transition of the oversight role. "We strongly urge Congress to continue fully funding NTIA activities relative to this critical transition," they wrote. "As stakeholders, we pledge our full support in working with you to ensure that the Internet remains a vital engine of innovation and job creation for America and the world."