Tech Giants Push Congress to Allow Internet Privatization

Source: Fortune, September 13, 2016

Major technology companies including Facebook, Google and Twitter are urging Congress to support a plan for the U.S. government to cede control of the internet’s technical management to the global community, they said in a joint letter dated on Tuesday. … The years-long plan to transfer oversight of the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is scheduled to occur on Oct. 1 unless Congress votes to block the handover. The California-based corporation operates the database for domain names such as .com and .net and their corresponding numeric addresses that allow computers to connect. … In the Sept. 13 letter, a copy of which had been reviewed by Reuters before it was sent, the technology companies said it was “imperative” that Congress does not delay the transition. “A global, interoperable and stable Internet is essential for our economic and national security, and we remain committed to completing the nearly twenty year transition to the multistakeholder model that will best serve U.S. interests,” the letter said. …

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The Internet Should Be a Public Good
Source: Ben Tarnoff, Jacobin Magazine, August 31, 2016

For years, the US government has controlled DNS. But in October, the system will become the responsibility of a Los Angeles-based nonprofit called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN has actually already been managing DNS since the late 1990s under a contract with the Commerce Department. What’s new is that ICANN will have independent authority over DNS, on a new “multi-stakeholder” model that’s supposed to make Internet governance more international. … But the symbolic significance is huge. The October handover marks the last chapter in the privatization of the Internet. It concludes a process that began in the 1990s, when the US government privatized a network built at enormous public expense. In return, the government demanded nothing: no compensation, and no constraints or conditions over how the Internet would take shape. …

Why Republicans Are Against Obama Privatizing Internet Governance
Source: Chauncey L. Acorn, Fortune, August 17, 2016

The Obama administration raised partisan concerns in Congress Tuesday, after members of his administration announced final plans to effectively privatize Internet governance. The administration’s National Telecommunications & Information Administration yesterday announced it will transfer internet domain name authority (IANA) from the federal government to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on Oct. 1, a bipartisan effort that’s spanned three Presidents, according to NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling. … Republicans in Congress argue the move constitutes a federal government internet “giveaway,” according to The Journal,” and effectively monopolizes web domain pricing. Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Sean Duffy on Friday sent a letter to the White House rebuking the anticipated move, which was originally reported by the NTIA earlier this year. The senators’ primary beef was with the Internet domain name registration company Verisign, which ICANN exclusively works with to register web domains. The lawmakers complain fully transferring the federal government’s domain naming process over to ICANN gives Verisign exclusive authority to name its own price for the domain name registration process. …

Obama Administration to Privatize Internet Governance on Oct. 1
Source: John D. McKinnon, Wall Street Journal, August 16, 2016

The Obama administration said Tuesday it will formally shift authority for much of the internet’s governance to a nonprofit multi-stakeholder entity on Oct. 1, a move likely to spark a backlash from parts of Congress. The administration—as well as many in the high-tech community—regard the long-planned move as necessary to maintain international support for the internet and prevent a fracturing of its governance. They say transferring authority for the internet’s domain-name system to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers will have no practical effect on the internet’s functioning or its users. … Lawmakers have adopted budget restrictions in recent years to try to stave off the move. But existing restrictions expire Sept. 30, giving lawmakers little time to act if they want to block the Obama administration’s latest executive action. … The administration in March 2014 announced its intent to wind down the U.S. government’s stewardship role when it comes to the internet’s domain-name system and relinquish control to the multi-stakeholder group, Icann, which manages a number of technical functions that help computers locate servers and websites. …