Two more key Democrats are questioning the Obama administration’s decision to cede some of America’s control over the Internet.
Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) told Breitbart News there should be a “high burden” for making such a change and that he’s reviewing the decision, while Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said he’s inclined against the change.
“I think it’s a high burden to overcome to cede authority, so I’m looking forward to the discussion about what this world would look like and again I’ll be open minded but I think the old system has a lot to say for itself,” Markey, who is a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and its the Communications, Technology, and Internet Sub Committee.
Since Lawrence Strickling, the Commerce Department’s Assistant Secretary for Communications, announce the agency’s plan to relinquish oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), more Democrats are expressing doubts about the plan.
Markey believes the matter is becoming bipartisan saying, “It’s Democrats and Republicans, understandably so. That’s a new era we would enter and we have to make sure the safe guards are in place to not allow for the compromise of this incredible invention, which is actually American.”
Markey’s remarks follow former president Bill Clinton and Senator Bob Menendez (D – NJ) who both came out against the administration’s proposal for the United States to cede administrative oversight to the many web addresses on the internet. Menendez told Breitbart News last week, he “would have a predisposition against” the Commerce Department’s proposal. Nelson, a member of the Communications, Technology, and Internet Sub Committee, remarked on Tuesday, that he was, “inclined to agree with Senator Menendez” on the issue.
Sen. Mark Pryor (D -AR), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, however, was not ready to give his thoughts on the matter telling Breitbart News, “I’m looking at it. Right now. I’m seeing how it works. I haven’t
made my final judgment yet.”
At issue is core technology behind how the Internet works. When you type a domain name into a web browser, the Domain Name System (DNS) acts like a phone book, translating the address into an Internet Protocal (IP) number used to find the computer server where the website resides.
A cluster of 13 servers called the “root zone” directs traffic for every web request, including e-mail.
ICANN’s role includes deciding which domain names are permitted under the rules.
Under the Commerce Department, Strickling runs an agency known as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which must confirm that ICANN goes through the appropriate protocols to approve any changes that are done to the root zone list.
Strickling told CNET that the Commerce Department sees its role as only “clerical” and that many are overreacting.
“This has been blown up into this idea that somehow the US controls the Internet today and that we’re giving up control. … But the fact is that ICANN does all of this today, in conjunction with Verisign.”
Additionally, Strickling says the Commerce Department has no plans to cede ICANN to any international body like the United Nations or International Telecommunication Union (ITU), next year in September.
“We’ve made it very clear that we will not accept a plan from the community that turns our role to a government-led organization or intergovernmental organization. That’s a red line we put out there in terms of not accepting that, and I have to tell you, I don’t really think there’s a serious possibility that the community made up of civil society and businesses and technical experts would ever come back with that as a proposal,” Strickling said, noting that there will be representatives from some authoritarian countries at a plenipotentiary conference of the ITU in Korea this year who may try to push for these ideas.
“…so if we get to Korea and these issues are presented, we would have the support not just of the developed world but increasingly of the developing world to push back against these kinds of ideas,” Stricking insisted.
Top congressional Republicans have pressed Strickling for addititional information, issuing a letter last week that asked a a series of pointed questions.
The questions include:
Please explain why it is in our national interest to transition the IANA functions to the “global multistakeholder community.”
You have stated that NTIA believes “the timing is right to start the transition process.” Why does the Administration believe now is the appropriate time to begin the transition, and what was the specific circumstance or development that led the Administration to decide to begin the transition now?
How can the Administration guarantee the multistakeholder organization that succeeds NTIA will not subsequently transfer the IANA functions to a government or intergovernmental organization in the future, or that such successor organization will not eventually fall under the undue influence of other governments?
NTIA asked ICANN to lead the transition process. However, ICANN has a potential self-interest in increasing its own autonomy and reducing its accountability to other entities. Some stakeholders have expressed concerns that ICANN may seek to control the IANA functions on its own, without oversight from anyone else. How did NTIA determine that ICANN is the appropriate entity to lead the transition process, and how will NTIA ensure that ICANN does not inappropriately control or influence the process for its own self-interest?
On the House side, both Judiciary as well as Energy and Commerce Committees called hearings to examine the Commerce Department’s proposal. Strickling faced questioning from Energy and Commerce members on Wednesday, insisting no foreign government would gain new powers over the Internet.