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Judge Rejects AG Attempt to Block IANA Transition

A Texas U.S. district court has denied a motion by four state attorneys general to block the Obama Administration's hand-off of oversight of IANA (the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) Internet domain naming conventions to a multistakeholder model.

In a one-sentence decision Friday (Sept. 30), without elaboration, Judge George Hanks Jr. denied the motion for a temporary restraining order.

Netchoice, Mozilla and CCIA and others had joined in an amicus brief in support of the transition, telling the court Friday that the AG's petition was a "last-minute motion for an extraordinary injunction that would have "forced the United States to enter into a contract that the Government has determined is not in the interest of the United States.

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration's (NTIA) contract to oversee IANA expired at the end of the day Friday. "As of October 1, 2016, the IANA functions contract has expired," said NTIA chief Larry Strickling said just after midnight Friday.

The AGs targeted the NTIA handover of its rights under the IANA contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) as well as its contract with Verisign related to that oversight, and its delegation of authority over Internet root zone file changes and otherwise its giving up functions "vital to the stability and correct functioning of the Internet."

NTIA said the oversight was principally ceremonial and that to keep it under U.S. authority would send the wrong signal about governmental oversight of the Internet.

The AG's argued that the hand-off was happening "without proper statutory authority" and in violation of the Fifth (property clause) and First Amendment (other countries are not bound by First Amendment protections).They also said that if the contract were allowed to expire, they "will lose the predictability, certainty, and protections that currently flow from federal stewardship of the Internet and instead be subjected to ICANN’s unchecked control."

The judge clearly was unconvinced.

“I’m glad the court found this lawsuit to be baseless, and appropriately threw it out," said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), a big backer of the hand-off. "This decision is another clear sign that efforts from a fringe group to block the IANA transition are misguided and irresponsible. We can now keep our long-standing and public commitment to the global community to keep the internet open and free.It’s time to move forward with the transition.”

Republicans, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), tried to block the transition, but most Democrats supported it.

"“It is appropriate that a federal court today denied a meritless request by a few Republican attorneys general to block the long-scheduled transfer of internet domain name system oversight from the U.S. to the global Internet community," said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), ranking member on the Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee, in a statement.