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House Passes DOTCOM Act

The House has overwhelmingly passed the DOTCOM Act 378 to 25, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), that provides for congressional oversight of a U.S. government handoff of oversight of the Internet domain naming function, while not unduly delaying that transition.

Republicans were concerned about transitioning from U.S. oversight, while most Democrats were more focused on not unduly delaying what they saw as a necessary transition to multistakeholder supervision. But the two sides were able to come together on a bill that does not have as lengthy a vetting timeline but still keeps Congress in the loop.

The plan for moving U.S. oversight to a multistakeholder model has yet to be struck, though it is being worked on in Buenos Aires at press time. In any event, it will almost certainly not be ready by the time the current contract expires, so the bill also extends the contract temporarily.

One takeaway from congressional hearings on the handoff was that both sides pretty much agreed that the handoff of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) from oversight by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration to a multistakeholder model wouldn'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.

The bill would head off a rider on a House appropriations bill that would block the transition altogether.

The Senate version of the bill also has bipartisan support. The Senate Commerce Committee has scheduled a June 25 markup of the DOTCOM Act.

“From the time the administration announced their intent to transition the IANA functions from ICANN to the international multi-stakeholder community, the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Communications and Technology Subcommittee have been committed to thorough oversight of any path forward,” said Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.). “This legislation makes clear that the Administration shall not proceed without first answering to Congress. Our oversight of the transition adds a vital check to this process, and emphasizes that the United States takes this transition seriously.”

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

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.