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House E&C Subcommittee Strikes DOTCOM Deal

The House Energy & Commerce Committee Communications Subcommittee has come up with a bipartisan agreement on legislation overseeing the U.S. Government hand-off of oversight of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) Internet domain naming functions to a multistakeholder group.

The U.S oversees domain naming via a contract with IAMA that expires in September.

H.R. 805, the Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters Act or DOTCOM Act, with new bipartisan amendments, "gives Congress a proper oversight role without unnecessarily delaying or undermining the multistakeholder process," said Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), who authored the bill. He said he has always taken a trust and verify approach, and suggested the amended bill would not that.

"We have a bipartisan responsibility to conduct rigorous oversight of NTIA and ensure the agency lives up to its commitments for the IANA transition," said full committee ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.). “This revised legislation renews our shared commitment to the success of the multistakeholder community and a global, open Internet.”

The legislation will be voted on Wednesday, according to Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.). "This bipartisan legislation will ensure that any plan to transition IANA to the multistakeholder community contains the necessary safeguards to ensure these critical Internet functions do not fall into the wrong hands,” said Walden in a statement.

The new amendments, which are all billed as bipartisan, would:

• "Require the administration to submit to Congress a report certifying that the transition plans meet the United States’ objective of global Internet openness;
• "Require NTIA to certify that changes to ICANN’s bylaws that the multistakeholder process has required as conditions of the transition have been implemented;
• "Provide safeguards designed to make ICANN more accountable to the Internet community; and
• "Give Congress 30 legislative days to review NTIA’s report before NTIA is permitted to relinquish its role in IANA."

Both sides have conceded that a hand-off plan will likely not be ready by September and the contract will need to be extended temporarily.

Democrats are generally supportive of the handoff. But concerned about that handover, Republicans pushed the DOTCOM Act in the last Congress — it stalled after passing out of the full House Energy & Commerce Committee.

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.