While they might be turning their fire on each other in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, teamed up on Thursday demanding answers as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) prepares to open Internet domain name functions to the international community, including foreign governments.
Back in 1998, the NTIA reached an agreement with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) concerning domain names. Back in March, the NTIA said it planned to end its agreement with ICANN. NTIA called for ICANN to keep the Internet secure and open and free from government control.
On March 14, 2014, NTIA announced its intent not to renew its contract with ICANN which ends on Sept. 30, 2015. NTIA tasked ICANN to meet with global stakeholders on an alternative to the current role of NTIA in the coordination of the DNS.
Last month, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communication and Information Lawrence Strickling, who oversees NTIA, testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet on why NTIA is taking a reduced role.
NTIA has taken the next step in the 16year process to privatize the coordination and management of the DNS, Strickling said. ICANN last month began the process of convening stakeholders for the first of many public discussions on this topic. During this period, NTIAs role will remain unchanged. As we have said repeatedly, we will not accept a transition plan that would replace the NTIA role with one led by governments or an intergovernmental organization and we have established a framework of four principles that the process must address. This must be a careful and thoughtful process. If a plan that meets these criteria cannot be implemented by Sept. 30, 2015, we can extend the contract for up to four years.
NTIA fully supports the need to ensure the continued growth, innovation and openness of the Internet to support economic development, Strickling added. This latest step, an important demonstration of the U.S. governments commitment and confidence in the multistakeholder model, will help support these goals.
Thats not enough for Rubio and Cruz who both sit on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Joined by seven other Republicans senators -- Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Roy Blount of Missouri, Dan Coats of Indiana, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Dean Heller of Nevada, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Tim Scott of South Carolina -- Rubio and Cruz sent a letter to committee chairmen U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., and U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., asking for a hearing on NTIAs proposed actions.
Should oversight of these vital Internet functions transition to foreign governments or international organizations that do not share our commitment to Internet freedom, individual empowerment and technological advances, both key components to achieving the American dream in the 21st century, (it) will become seriously compromised, said Rubio on Thursday. That is not a risk we can afford to take. It is Congresss job to lead the cause for Internet freedom, and the Senates responsibility to do so begins with the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. There are many unresolved questions regarding NTIAs announcement, and hopefully this hearing can provide some answers.
The Internet has become an extraordinary incubator for jobs, growth, and freedom under the stewardship of the United States because we have made certain that the Internet remains free, said Cruz. Changing the current arrangement with ICANN risks endangering what has made it such a powerful tool for innovation and communications. Any change that would grant foreign governments the ability to undermine foundational freedoms, such as free speech, must be rejected outright. The Senate must carefully vet any proposal that could take any steps toward doing so.
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