In March of 2014, the Obama Administration foolishly announced its intent to relinquish oversight of Internet domain name functions to the so-called “global stakeholder community.”
That is a dangerous idea for innumerable reasons, as observers like L. Gordon Crovitz of The Wall Street Journal have chronicled well. Among other risks, consider the piracy threat that surrendering U.S. oversight poses to critical American artistic industries like music and film. Online piracy already constitutes an enormous problem to those world-leading industries, and allowing Internet governance to drift into a Hobbesian global abyss would only exacerbate that. Or consider the censorship threat, as Crovitz recently referenced:
Since the launch of the commercial Internet, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann, has operated under a contract from the U.S. Commerce Department. American oversight freed engineers and developers to run the networks without political pressure from other governments. China and Russia can censor the Internet in their own countries, but not globally because Washington would block tampering with the “root zone” of Web addresses.”
Fortunately, some in Congress aren’t sitting passively as the Obama Administration attempt yet another international capitulation. In a recent letter to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, Senators Charles Grassley (R – Iowa) and Ted Cruz (R – Texas) and Congressmen Bob Goodlatte (R -Virginia) and Darrell Issa (R – California) remind the Administration that it cannot dispose of U.S. property without Congressional consent:
The Internet as we know it has evolved from a network infrastructure first created by Department of Defense researchers. One key component of that infrastructure is the root zone file, which the federal government currently designates as ‘a national IT asset.’ Creation of the root zone file was funded by the American taxpayer and coordinated by the Department of Defense, and the file has remained under United States control ever since. Under Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution, Congress has the exclusive power ‘to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States.’”
Surrender of Internet oversight to a “global community” increasingly dominated by the likes of China, Russia, Iran and other rogues poses a terrible risk. Fortunately, our Constitution presents a roadblock to the Obama Administration’s latest folly. Even more fortunately, we have people like Senator Grassley, Senator Cruz, Congressman Goodlatte and Congressman Issa ready and willing to defend it.