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Dotcom Act Clears Senate Commerce

The Senate Commerce Committee favorably reported the Dotcom Act out of committee.

That is the same bill the House approved overwhelmingly (378 to 25) earlier this week.

The bill provides for congressional oversight of a U.S. government handoff of oversight of the Internet domain naming function, while not unduly delaying that transition, say its supporters, which are on both sides of the aisle.

The handoff of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) from oversight by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration to a multistakeholder model won't be ready by the Sept. 30, 2015 expiration date of the current contract with ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), a nonprofit created by the U.S. in 1997.

The bill requires that Congress get 30 days to vet any transition plan, and take action to block or modify it if it does not pass muster.

Sen. Ted. Cruz (R-Texas) proposed an amendment that would have required Congress to sign off on the plan before it could be implemented, rather than allowing it to take affect unless the Congress acted to block or modify it.

He said the result could easily be that Congress could not get its act together in 30 days and "the Internet would be handed over." He said his amendment would simply reverse the presumption and require Congress to debate and vote on it.

Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) agreed that there needed to be accountability and oversight, but said that the bill contained accountability requirements, and that 30 days should be enough time for Congress to act if there were any red flags in agreement.

He also pointed out that Cruz's amendment would probably lose most of the Democrats who had signed on to the bipartisan bill, that it was something of a delicate compromise and that, even if it passed (through the Republican-controlled House and Senate) could face a veto.

Next stop for the bill is the Senate floor. If it passes unamended, then it is on to the President's desk.

"We commend the Senate Commerce Committee for their bipartisan work on passage of the DOTCOM Act," the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said in response. "This legislation helps further the growth of the Internet with the protection and Congressional oversight needed to guide the transition from IANA oversight to the multi-stakeholder model. We look forward to the full Senate acting on this legislation."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.