Republican Senators Seek Hearing On ICANN Hand-off

Led by Senate Commerce Committee members Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), nine Republican senators have asked the chairman and ranking member of the committee to hold a hearing on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s planned transition of some Internet domain name (ICANN) functions to a multistakeholder model.

That came the same day that the House agreed to amend the DOTCOM Act to a must-pass defense bill. The Act would require a GAO study before that hand-off. It was primarily backed by Republicans, though 17 Democrats also voted to amend to the National Defense Authorization Act.

In a letter to chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Communications Subcommittee chairman Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Rubio and company shared House Republican (and some Democrat) concern over the transition, pointing to the "success of the existing bottom-up, multistakeholder approach to Internet governance." Actually, Democrats opposed to the DOTCOM Act, say that the hand-off is in service of that goal, since it is transitioning from U.S. oversight—though they argue that has been primarily ceremonial—to the multistakeholder model.

“Should oversight of these vital Internet functions transition to foreign governments or international organizations that do not share our commitment to Internet freedom, individual empowerment and technological advances, both key components to achieving the American Dream in the 21st century, will become seriously compromised,” said Rubio. “That is not a risk we can afford to take. It is Congress’ job to lead the cause for Internet freedom, and the Senate’s responsibility to do so begins with the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. There are many unresolved questions regarding NTIA’s announcement, and hopefully this hearing can provide some answers.”

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.