Internet Transition: What’s The Big Deal? Digital Trade Barriers, Witness Tells Congress



The anticipated transition of U.S. oversight of technical Internet functions to the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been framed in a number of ways over the past two years.

Some see it as a “privatization” of Internet functions. Others view it as the diplomatic response to Edward Snowden’s surveillance revelations, or as the long-awaited realization of ICANN’s original purpose.

But to Intel Global Security and Internet Governance Policy Director Audrey Plonk, it’s all about markets.

At a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) asked witnesses what might happen if, after two years of proposal drafting, the U.S. government ultimately says “no” to letting the transition go forward.

Plonk responded that short-circuiting the transition at this point would send a “very negative message to the markets, to the international community, and I don’t just mean governments but I mean the business community, that we weren’t serious about carrying forward our commitment to turn this over to the multi-stakeholder community.”

Plonk said such a move would be “bad for business, bad for investment and will incentivize other trade barriers that we see in the tech sector.”

All the other witnesses agreed that the transition can and should happen when the current ICANN contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce ends in September. Whether Congress is convinced by those arguments remains to be seen.

UPDATE: This post originally misattributed the testimony to Cisco Systems Engineer Alissa Cooper.