02.19.2015 1

Obama’s Internet giveaway recklessness

By Robert Romano

protect the internetIn December, when Congress prohibited the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) from relinquishing stewardship of Internet governance to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) this fiscal year, it also instructed the agency to keep Congress apprised of its contingency plans should anything go awry with such a transition.

Currently, under U.S. government contract, ICANN administers the basic functionality of the domain name system, Internet protocol addresses, and the like. In March 2014, the Obama Administration announced its intent to fully relinquish those functions to ICANN, which would be the world’s only distributor of domain names.

But what if something went wrong after such a transition? What if the functions were used to engage in censorship or to otherwise harm U.S. interests? What would the agency do?

That is why in the omnibus, Congress required NTIA to submit a report due January 30 “regarding any recourse that would be available to the United States if the decision is made to transition to a new contract and any subsequent decisions made following such transfer of Internet governance are deleterious to the United States.”

The agency’s answer? Don’t worry about it. Oh, and we’ll get back to you.

Specifically, NTIA told Congress that “Our preliminary answer is that the criteria for the plan that NTIA established in its March 2014 announcement will ensure an outcome that is not ‘deleterious’ to the United States.”

NTIA continued, “Nonetheless, NTIA understands the concerns of Congress in this regard and will regularly revisit this question during the planning process and when evaluating the ultimate ICANN-submitted proposal to ensure that the final plan is not deleterious to the interests of the United States and its Internet stakeholders.”

So, NTIA’s contingency plan should anything go wrong with the Internet transition after it takes place is to assure Congress that nothing will go wrong. The transition will not be deleterious to U.S. interests, the agency decrees.

Consider that. The agency refused to submit the report it was supposed to because it disagreed with the premise of the question being asked. Whom do they work for, one wonders? If not the American people’s representatives in Congress, then whom?

A charitable explanation is that the agency’s contingency plan that was due to Congress January 30 will be addressed when ICANN is done submitting its own proposal for fully taking over Internet governance, which the agency does not expect until the end of July.

In other words, the agency is so busy with giving away the Internet to ICANN and the global multistakeholder community that it has not spent any time considering the nation’s potential recourse should something go wrong with their plan.

Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning was outraged at what he called a “brazenly arrogant response from a bureaucrat to the U.S. Congress.”

“Congress should engage in an aggressive investigation of NTIA’s oversight of ICANN and their actions to unilaterally turn over control of Internet governance to the organization without any clear authorization to do so,” Manning added, concluding, “This bureaucratic slap in the face to Congress and the power of the purse should be forcefully and unilaterally rejected by all members of Congress by forcing NTIA to renew the contract for at least a two-year period.”

To that end, NTIA head Lawrence Strickling is being called to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on February 25. One question members might ask him is what is the agency’s contingency plan should anything go wrong with Internet governance post-transition? What if it results in global censorship? Also, since the agency had 45 days to formulate that plan and submit it to Congress, why did it fail to do so?

Especially for members who say they want to support the transition, these are the questions that need to be asked — before it’s too late. For goodness’ sake, they don’t even have a back-up plan.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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