Commerce Department Exploring Reversing Internet Oversight Transition


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The U.S. Commerce Department is looking into possibly reversing its handover of technical internet oversight to the nonprofit manager of the domain name system.

Assistant Commerce Secretary David Redl said March 6 he is working with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to “find a way to get more feedback on this.”

The department transferred its oversight role in 2016 to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, under a plan the global internet community spent two years developing. Former Assistant Commerce Secretary Lawrence Strickling had said on several occasions that the transfer couldn’t be undone.

Redl told the House Commerce Committee that he had “committed to a process” to look into the transition and seek feedback from experts in considering a possible reversal. “My personal opinion certainly shouldn’t carry the day as the opinion of an entire federal agency,” Redl said.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a leading critic of the oversight transition to ICANN, pressed Redl on the issue at his confirmation hearing last June. Redl then said it’d be “difficult to put the genie back in the bottle.”

Ross said during his own confirmation hearing that he didn’t think there was a way to reverse the move.

ICANN oversees the technical functions that allow the internet to run smoothly. Those functions include maintaining internet protocol (IP) addresses and domain names to ensure that computers can talk to and understand each other online.