President Obama’s effort to transfer a final component of the Internet to international control amounts to an effort to “fix a system that ain’t broke,” critics in Congress charge, and put foreign states in a position to violate human rights around the globe.
“I think there needs to be, at least in the short term, a ripcord to pull so that we can fall back to the way things were in case we see some of these worst-case scenarios play out,” Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, told the Washington Examiner.
Critics have been voicing similar concerns since the Department of Commerce announced in March 2014 that it would seek to transfer control of Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, the administrative agency responsible for overseeing addresses on the Web, to the Los Angeles-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a global organization comprising more than 160 governments and some private stakeholders.
Proponents of the transfer have called it the best way to maintain a free and open Internet. In a February letter addressed to senators, former ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade called it one of the “clearest ways to maintain a globally interoperable, stable and secure Internet.”
He added, “I share the longstanding belief that such freedom from government control over the technical functioning and interoperability of the Internet is best achieved as the United States leads by example” by transitioning oversight.
IANA, which matches Internet protocol addresses with computers and websites and ultimately allows them to connect, performs an unseen but critical function that enables users on the Web to connect with each other.
Opponents of the transfer have expressed concerns about the fact that nefarious operators could end the traditional freedoms of the Internet, blocking users from viewing blacklisted content.
Though Farenthold said there could be some legitimacy to the idea of transferring IANA to a multi-stakeholder body with the appropriate safeguards in place, he said the administration is trying to rush the process without paying heed to those details.