Cruz Accuses Commerce Dept. of Violating Federal Law

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By Joseph Wright

June 21 — Sen. Ted Cruz and three other Republican lawmakers June 21 accused a U.S. Department of Commerce agency of violating federal law by preparing to end its technical oversight of the Internet.

Cruz (Tex.), along with Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and James Lankford (Okla.) and Rep. Sean Duffy (Wis.) said in a letter to National Telecommunications & Information Administration chief Lawrence E. Strickling that NTIA violated a funding prohibition in the fiscal year 2016 omnibus appropriations measure. The provision said NTIA couldn't expend funds to relinquish the agency's responsibility for Internet domain name functions.

The letter is the latest step in a small number of legislators' efforts to derail an Obama administration initiative to complete the privatization of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which has otherwise enjoyed broad bipartisan support on Capitol Hill and near-universal support from the business community.

“We believe that NTIA has violated that prohibition by funding projects whose only conceivable purpose is to facilitate the proposed transition of responsibility to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN),” the legislators said.

NTIA recently said an ICANN-drafted plan met the agency's criteria to relinquish the U.S. role in Internet oversight (21 ECLR 937, 6/15/16). NTIA said the transition will take place at the end of the fiscal year if ICANN says by mid-August that it's ready to assume self-governance.

Cruz cited NTIA's proposal assessment and an independent analysis commissioned from the Berkman Center at Harvard University, at a cost of $18,690, as projects that violated the provision. Cruz asked Strickling to provide by June 28 an itemized accounting of all transition-related expenditures since Oct. 1, 2015.

NTIA Response

An NTIA spokeswoman told Bloomberg BNA June 21 that the agency has received the letter and is reviewing it.

An identical funding prohibition was included in fiscal year 2015 appropriations legislation. In January 2015 Strickling defended NTIA's ongoing transition-related work, saying it was mandated elsewhere in the same legislation.

“The act imposes regular reporting requirements on NTIA to keep Congress apprised of the transition process,” Strickling said. “To meet those requirements, NTIA will actively monitor the discussions and activities within the multistakeholder community as it develops the transition plan. We will participate in meetings and discussions with ICANN, Verisign, other governments and the stakeholder community with respect to the transition. We will continue to represent the United States at the meetings of ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee.” (20 ECLR 161, 2/4/15)

To contact the reporter on this story: Joseph Wright in Washington at jwright@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alexis Kramer at akramer@bna.com

For More Information

The letter is available at http://src.bna.com/f7u.

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