Republicans Request GAO Report On Internet Name Hand-off

House Energy & Commerce Republican leaders have asked for a Government Accountability Office study of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration's plan to transfer oversight of Internet domain naming functions (ICANN) to a global multistakeholder model.

The letter, headed by House E&C chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Communications Subcommittee chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.), says they want the review because they are concerned the transition as outlined by NTIA "may not ensure that the Internet remains free and open in the absence of U.S. oversight."

They ask GAO for "an examination of the proposed transition and its possible implications to U.S. national security, the potential for other governments to assume the U.S. role post-transition, and any additional concerns the GAO may have about the transition."

Those same legislators have been pushing a bill—the DOTCOM Act—that would not allow NTIA to make the hand-off until after a GAO report was concluded, which would delay the transition. They were successful in getting the DOTCOM Act amended to a must-pass appropriations bill, with support from some Democrats, which passed the House.

But it is unclear whether the DOTCOM Act  will survive to the final bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday unanimously passed its version of the appropriations bill, also with an amendment on the NTIA handoff, but one that would allow it to proceed.

NTIA has said it would not turn over the Internet naming function to a government-led or controlled model, which is the main concern of critics of the hand-off. The Senate amendment would require NTIA to conduct a "thorough review" of the multistakeholder model to make sure it is insulated from foreign control, as well as to report quarterly to the committee on the privatization process.

Also signing on to the letter were committee vice chair Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), and Reps. John Shimkus (Ill.), Mike Kelly (Pa.), and Todd Rokita (Ind.).

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.