Senate Commerce Takes Up House Version of Dotcom Act

The bipartisan leadership of the Senate Commerce Committee and Communications Subcommittee had introduced a version of the Dotcom Act identical to one approved unanimously out of the House Communications Subcommittee earlier this week.

The bill provides a framework for congressional oversight of the transition of the Internet domain naming function from U.S. oversight to a multistakeholder model.

The House—and now Senate—version had drawn criticism from Democrats, but a deal struck earlier this week paved the way for a mutual admiration society markup of a bill both sides said would help make the transition while making sure Congress had an oversight role.

There seemed to be bipartisan agreement on the Senate side as well, with at least one of the Democratic leaders on board—Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), ranking member of the full committee, was not one of the co-sponsors.

“Since the IANA transition was announced, I’ve advocated for robust accountability reforms that empower the multistakeholder community over governments and international institutions,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. “This legislation is an important step forward in ensuring the Internet community has the tools it needs to keep the Internet open, dynamic, and free from state-control. Further, the DOTCOM Act establishes an important and appropriate role for Congress in this important moment for the Internet.”

“There is bipartisan agreement that Congress has an important oversight role of NTIA as it transitions the IANA functions to the global Internet community,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), ranking member of the Communications subcommittee. “This legislation is a symbol of our commitment to a successful transition and will help ensure that the Internet remains a vital engine of innovation and job creation for America and around the world.” 

Specifically, the bill 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."'

Introducing the bill were Sens. Thune, Schatz, Communications Subcommittee chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and subcommittee member and presidential candidate Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). 

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.