GOP-Led Budget Conflict Could Halt ICANN Internet Transition

At the beginning of next month, ICANN is expected to be put in charge of the global internet, receiving that access from the U.S. government. But prominent Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz, see a problem with this shift and are trying to prevent it.

For years, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been preparing for a big move that would transfer ownership of the internet’s basic functionality from the U.S. government to the corporation.

That transition is expected to happen on October 1, when the National Telecommunications and Information Administration would hand over the keys to ICANN.

Problem is, some legislators on the Republican side of the aisle see a big problem with the transfer and may attempt to make it a sticking point in the latest battle over whether to continue funding the U.S. government.

Earlier this month, a group of prominent House and Senate committee chairs—Senate Judiciary’s Charles Grassley (R-IA), Senate Commerce’s John Thune (R-SD), House Judiciary’s Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), and House Commerce’s Fred Upton (R-MI)—sent a letter to the Obama administration, highlighting their misgivings about the ICANN switchover.

And Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a onetime 2016 presidential candidate, who played prominent roles in two prior budget battles, has called on Congress to take steps to legislatively stop the switchover. As The Washington Post notes, it’s his first major footprint in Washington since suspending his presidential campaign in May.

“If Congress fails to act, the Obama administration intends to give away control of the internet to an international body akin to the United Nations,” Cruz said earlier this month, according to Motherboard. “If the proposal goes though, it will empower countries like Russia, China, and Iran to be able to censor speech on the internet, your speech.”

Cruz’s stance on the issue has been met with skepticism from technology circles, but in the halls of Congress, the approach is gaining currency. That’s leading a coalition of tech firms to speak out. The group sent a letter last week, calling on Congress not to delay the transition that has been years in the making.

“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 multi stakeholder model that will best serve U.S. interests,” the letter said, according to Reuters.

Signatories of the letter include a number of trade groups, along with firms like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

(Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!