In a speech last month before European leaders, Secretary of State John Kerry showed the administration’s cards over whether control of the Internet would remain in U.S. hands or be surrendered to foreign bureaucrats loyal and foreign governments not necessarily friendly to the United States or its interests.
At the time, Kerry said the Internet “needs rules to be able to flourish and work properly” and that an international body like the United Nations is well situated to take on that role.
Now the Obama Administration has dropped the other shoe by issuing a timetable the U.S. will follow to cede oversight of the non-profit that manages the Internet’s infrastructure – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – to “a global multi-stakeholder body” before next year’s presidential elections.
Some congressional Republicans wonder why loosening U.S. control of the Internet is needed… why the Obama Administration is trying to rush the change through… and what leverage will the U.S. have if should the change happen to stop other countries from taking over control on their own.
Since 1998, the United States, which gave birth to the Internet, has contracted out, through the Commerce Department, the management of the master database for top-level domain names like .com and .net and their corresponding numeric Internet addresses to ICANN.
Revisionist historians say it has always been the Commerce Department’s plan to phase out U.S. oversight the Internet when the current contract ICANN has with the U.S. expires this September.
Toward that end, ICANN is working on a draft proposal for how the group would operate as an independent body run by “stakeholders” from all over the world including academics, business leaders and governments.
Above all other considerations is the need for speed in concluding the change before the U.S presidential election in November 2016, which could result in a Republican president hostile to an ICANN power shift in control of the White House.
Naturally, President Barack Obama has threatened to veto a bill proposed in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to restrict the Commerce Department’s ability to use current funding to carry out the Internet giveaway plan.
The question is, will politicians from both parties in Congress – men and women with their political careers still ahead of them past 2016 – come together to override the veto of a lame duck president.