Here’s Why Internet Privatization Scares Republican Leaders – Fortune

GOP lawmakers sounded the alarm once again this week over the Obama administration’s looming Internet privatization.

On Oct. 1, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration will transfer internet domain name authority (IANA) from the government-run National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)—a California-based non-profit that already managed IANA’s process for the NTIA prior to the transfer, according to NTIA officials.

So on Thursday, four Republican lawmakers who serve on committees with major internet oversight roles sent a letter to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Justice Department to air their grievances. Not only that, but lawmakers asked attorney general Loretta Lynch to prevent the power transfer, at least temporarily.

“There is no bylaw restriction preventing ICANN from shifting its legal jurisdiction of incorporation to Australia, Belgium, China, Iran, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland, or anywhere else,” the lawmakers said, citing prior testimony shared during an earlier sub-committee hearing regarding the IANA power transfer.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is one Republican in support of the letter. And on Thursday he testified on the U.S. Senate floor that the transfer is a matter of national security.

“Once this transition happens, there are serious indications that ICANN intends to seek to flee U.S. jurisdiction and flee U.S. laws,” Cruz said.

In an August blog post about the matter, NTIA administrator Lawrence E. Strickling said the power transfer will achieve the opposite: It’s part of a 20-year effort designed to prevent internet governance from being fragmented between nations, a process that’s spanned three presidents, including George W. Bush.

Republicans are mostly worried rules of the transfer, such as accountability, jurisdiction, and antitrust issues, have not been fully “fleshed out,” and that prematurely giving away authority to ICANN could be “irreversible.” They said it could allow the group to set rules over the domain naming process without federal input or oversight.

During a Thursday media conference call on the matter, an Internet industry official told reporters the transfer was the best way to maintain international support for an open internet, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“The reality is that this is not about censorship of the internet, it’s about preserving the Internet,” the official told the Journal.


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