WASHINGTON May 8 A U.S. Congressional panel on
Thursday advanced a bill opposed by the Obama administration
that would delay a plan to cede U.S. oversight of the nonprofit
group that manages the Internet's infrastructure.
The United States in March said it planned to relinquish
oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers (ICANN), which controls the "address book" of the
Internet, the master database of top-level domain names such as
.com and .net.
The U.S. contract with ICANN will expire in September 2015,
and the Commerce Department said it plans to turn over the
oversight capacity to a global multi-stakeholder mechanism, the
specifics of which the ICANN community will propose.
The Republican-led House Energy and Commerce Committee on
Thursday voted to advance the Domain Openness Through Continued
Oversight Matters Act, or the DOTCOM Act. The bill would require
the Government Accountability Office to study the proposed
changes and report back before the Commerce Department can give
"All we are saying is, can we just stop a minute and let the
GAO take a look before the U.S. government (makes the move)?"
said Representative Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican who chairs
the communication and technology subcommittee.
The panel rejected two Democrats' amendments, one of which
sought to add language that asserted Congress' support of the
multi-stakeholder Internet governance model - a measure the
House unanimously approved last year.
"That throws sand in the gears in terms of what you all
voted for, 413-to-zero," said Representative Anna Eshoo,
Democrat from California. "I don't know what has entered your
mind that has you making a U-turn."
Internationally, the U.S. plan to move toward a globalized
administration of the Web was widely seen as long overdue,
especially following last year's revelations by former
contractor Edward Snowden of vast Internet surveillance
conducted by the U.S. National Security Agency.
That sentiment was echoed in April at a global conference on
the management of the Internet hosted by Brazil, where most
participants agreed it should remain a self-regulated space free
of government intervention.
However, domestically, the plan has provoked a backlash from
conservatives and others. They worry it may open the door for
countries interested in limiting citizens' access to some online
information, such as China or Russia, to use ICANN as a venue
to push for more restrictive Internet governance policies.
"We'd be best advised to slow down, take a thorough review
and realize that once (oversight) is gone, it's gone," said
Representative Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee.
So far there has been no date set for consideration of the
bill by the full House, and no matching legislation in the
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh, editing by Ros Krasny and Andrew