House Commerce Committee Quickly OKs DotCom Bill

It took the full House Commerce Committee barely eight minutes to approve by voice vote the Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters(DotCom) Act Wednesday morning (June 17). In opening the brief mark-up session, committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) described adoption of the law as "the next step in [the Internet's] evolution" and urged that "we must do so with an eye toward preserving the Internet’s vitality and character."

The bill (H.R. 805) requires certifications and an opportunity for congressional review to ensure that any transfer of U.S. involvement over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) does not enable other countries to grab greater control over critical Internet functions. A draft of the proposed law had breezed through the Telecommunications Subcommitteelast week with bipartisan support.

The only kurfuffle in today's discussion came from Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), who asked that in the final draft of the bill, the term "adopted" is used. He pointed out that Lawrence Strickling, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, has urged that the legislation use the term "adopted" rather than "implemented" to describe Congress's role in future international agreements. Shimkus, in what he called "out of fun," noted that Strickling's message to the committee actually used the word "implemented" (or a variation) at least three times. Multichannel News's requests to NTIA to obtain a copy of Strickling's message were not returned.

Shimkus said he "only hopes that NTIA also changes the word."

Last week, Senate Commerce Committee chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and three other senators introduced a companion DotCom bill, S.1551, identical to the House version. There is no timetable for senate review of the plan. Cosponsors of the senate version are subcommittee ranking member Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and subcommittee chairmen Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Throughout Wednesday's cordial House hearing there were repeated calls for bipartisan support as the bill works its way through Congress.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who shepherded the legislation as chairman of theSubcommittee on Communications and Technology, emphasized the need for "oversight of the process of transitioning the IANA functions away from the United States to the international multi-stakeholder community" and for "effective safeguards ... [to] preserve the Internet we have come to rely on in so many aspects of our lives."

Walden reminded his colleagues that the "NTIA set forward strong criteria necessary for any successful transition proposal, including a requirement that ICANN improve its accountability to the Internet community."

"Through this bill, we can achieve our shared goal: preventing harm to the Internet as we know it," Walden added.

Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Communications Subcommittee, who had pushed for bipartisan support, was enthusiastic as the vote came.

"This isa good bill," she said.  "It is a very important bill relative to the position of the United States (regarding) the Internet."

In prepared remarks, Eshoo explained, "The bill represents a sensible solution to ensure that the IANA transition supports and enhances the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance; maintains the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet domain name system; and does not replace the role of the NTIA with a government-led or intergovernmental organization solution."

In his overview, chairman Upton reminded his colleagues that when it comes to "removing the U.S. government from its oversight of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority – we must look before we leap."

Upton also observed that, "The legislation ... ensures that accountability measures have been put in place so that the Internet community can take action should ICANN stray from its path."

Gary Arlen

Contributor Gary Arlen is known for his insights into the convergence of media, telecom, content and technology. Gary was founder/editor/publisher of Interactivity Report, TeleServices Report and other influential newsletters; he was the longtime “curmudgeon” columnist for Multichannel News as well as a regular contributor to AdMap, Washington Technology and Telecommunications Reports. He writes regularly about trends and media/marketing for the Consumer Technology Association's i3 magazine plus several blogs. Gary has taught media-focused courses on the adjunct faculties at George Mason University and American University and has guest-lectured at MIT, Harvard, UCLA, University of Southern California and Northwestern University and at countless media, marketing and technology industry events. As President of Arlen Communications LLC, he has provided analyses about the development of applications and services for entertainment, marketing and e-commerce.