Cruz Accuses ICANN of Stonewalling Congress


The epistolary exchange between Ted Cruz, the Republican presidential hopeful, and ICANN that started out as an inquiry into the Internet domain overseer’s ties to China has erupted into a full-blown accusation that ICANN is stonewalling Congress.

Back in February, the Texas Senator, along with Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Michael Lee (R-Utah), wrote a letter to Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ then-CEO Fadi Chehade´ in which they posed a series of pointed questions about Chehade´’s involvement in China’s World Internet Conference.

Rather than answer the questions point-by-point, Chehade´ responded with a blanket defense of his participation as part of his advocacy for a single, open Internet. (Chehade´ stepped down as ICANN CEO March 15 and is being succeeded by Sweden’s Göran Marby.)

That response didn’t satisfy Cruz and his colleagues, who followed up March 3 with a letter to Stephen Crocker, chairman of ICANN’s board of directors. They asked whether the board knew of Chehade´’s activities, whether the Chinese government assisted in building ICANN’s Beijing engagement office, and what additional engagement ICANN has planned with China.

Cruz asked for a response by 9 a.m. March 11, which apparently was not forthcoming. Now, he has again written to Crocker, requesting an answer by 9 a.m. April 7.

In Congress, Cruz has been among the most vocal critics of the Obama administration’s initiative to end Commerce Department oversight of the nonprofit ICANN, which has responsibility for such technical Internet functions as IP address space allocation and domain name system management. Oversight would shift to the private sector-led, global multistakeholder community.

Cruz has held up a bill to let the initiative proceed after a brief congressional review period once Commerce signs off on ICANN’s proposal, which was submitted March 10.

Although there is considerable support on Capitol Hill for the Internet transition initiative, Cruz could still make the process difficult.  Crocker’s response could factor into whether Cruz lets the issue go as the presidential election season lurches ahead or keeps up efforts to elevate it, heating up the rhetoric along the way.