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July 14 — A U.S. plan to relinquish oversight of internet technical functions won't enable authoritarian governments such as China and Russia to take control of the medium, a senior administration official said July 14.
National Telecommunications & Information Administration chief Lawrence E. Strickling tried to counter critics of the transition plan, including their contention that the U.S. would, as Strickling described it, be “giving the internet away” to governments that want to censor online content.
“No one has set forth even a plausible scenario as to how that could happen, and the fact is it simply will not happen as a result of completing the transition,” Strickling said at the 2016 Internet Governance Forum in Washington.
The Commerce Department June 9 approved a proposal to transition the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions—the coordination of the unique codes and numbering systems used in internet technical standards—to a global internet community composed of businesses, civil society, governments and other users (21 ECLR 937, 6/15/16).
Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) have been gathering opposition to the plan. They have said that it would, among other things, increase the power of foreign governments over the internet (21 ECLR 954, 6/15/16)
Strickling rejected the argument that authoritarian governments would gain control of the internet or have an expanded role in relation to the global internet community.
He said that the bylaws of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the organization that administers the IANA functions, prohibit government officials from serving as voting board members, and that the role of governments in ICANN policymaking will remain advisory.
Any claim that the transition plan is a radical proposal being rushed through the Obama administration is false, Strickling also said. The multistakeholder community had extended the IANA contract because it needed additional time for the transition plan, which had taken two years to develop, he said.
Strickling said failing to proceed with the plan may mean opponents' fears are realized.
“Failing to follow through on the transition or unilaterally extending the contract will only embolden authoritarian regimes to intensify their advocacy for government-led or intergovernmental management of the internet via the United Nations,” he said.
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