DOTCOM Act Advances, Delays NTIA Transfer to Multistakeholder Internet Governance Model

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The Communications and Technology Subcommittee voted to advance the DOTCOM Act on Thursday, effectively delaying the transfer to a multistakeholder Internet governance model for at least another year.

The US Senate subcommittee voted 16 to 10 to bring the DOTCOM Act to the full committee. The bill requires the General Accountability Office to prepare an analysis on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration planned transfer of the oversight of the ICANN DNS to a multistakeholder model.

“There is a substantial amount of unfounded fear over the transition of the IANA functions from the US Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NITA) to a non-governmental organization,” David Snead, attorney, co-founder and Vice Chair of i2Coalition tells the WHIR in an email. “The fear stems in part from the fact that we’re at an inflection point right now in Internet governance where there is significant debate about the role of governments in the organization of the Internet. The fear represented in the DOTCOM Act is that administration of the domain space will end up in the hands of an agency that reflects the desires of governments who do not hold the same beliefs as those held by most of the industrialized democracies of the world. While the I2Coalition understands this concern, the proposed transition plan described by NITA ensures that any transition will be to an entity who will administer the IANA function as it has been in the past.”

i2Coalition co-founder and Board Chair Christian Dawson said that there are some who view the DOTCOM Act as a way to slow down the process in order to understand what is going on, “but there is another segment who is rather callously pushing a ‘Obama is giving away the Internet to our enemies’ trope despite that having no basis in reality. Despite the Internet not being the United States’ to give. You see this in the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal for instance.”

While Dawson said he doesn’t have a problem with legislators who want to understand the multistakeholder process better, he believes the new version of the DOTCOM Act is not a good thing.

“I am hoping to find other avenues to educate them,” Dawson said in an email to the WHIR. “I am hoping that the people who understand this can give those individuals comfort so that they don’t feel the need to slow down this process. Slowing down this process means potentially bad things for the Internet and this economy. If those of us who understand this can make the case that this is a positive step forward and not something to be scared about, it will be better for the Internet community as a whole.”

According to a report by Domain Incite, the GAO reports could take a year. A prior draft of the bill saw the delay begin “the moment the bill hit the statute books. Now, the clock starts when the proposal is made.”

Democrats on the subcommittee said the bill goes against the multistakeholder process “they all profess to endorse,” according to Domain Incite.

“We can’t have it both ways,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren said in an exchange with Lawrence Strickling in a hearing on Thursday. “Either we’re for non-governmental, multi-stakeholder governance, or we’re for governmental governance. And if it’s the latter, I think we’re walking into a very serious, bad problem which is the agenda of authoritarian regimes to take over this.”

“I think that it’s important that this committee stand up against the inaccuracies that have been promulgated out in the press by people, I assume they’re working in good faith, who misunderstand what’s even being discussed here, and we stand up for freedom on the Internet, which means standing up for multistakeholder governance and against government regulation and control of the Internet.”

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