US Technology Companies Want Open Internet

The U.S is about to relinquish control of ICANN, the nonprofit organization that maintains domain names, but Republicans are afraid that data might be censored by other nations or that the internet will be under threat from other nations. U.S. tech companies, however, are lobbying Congress to allow the change.

ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has been U.S.-based since 1998 and is a nonprofit organization overseen by the U.S. Commerce Department. ICANN preserves the stability of the internet by maintaining the central internet address pools and DNS root registries of the internet’s global Domain Name System. It is also expected to promote competition.

On Oct. 1, the organization is planning a transition to a more global structure, and Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter, among others, are requesting that Congress allow the transition to occur. A letter from the petitioners stated:

“A global, interoperable and stable internet is essential for our economic and national security, and we remain committed to completing the nearly 20-year transition to the multi-stakeholder model that will best serve U.S. interests.”

According to PCWorld, the transition will end U.S. oversight of the internet’s Domain Name System, and some Republican lawmakers, such as Ted Cruz, are opposing the change. Cruz’s argument is that the proposal will lose the internet to a multinational entity, and countries might be able to censor the data on the internet. Some nations already do censor information within their own countries.

Those supporting the transition include the president and CEO of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, who said that the transition will “ensure the continued stability and openness of the internet, which bears directly on the economic and national security” of the U.S.

According to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the transition is “premature and must be postponed.” The senator believes that a transition should not go ahead until some key transparency and process reforms take place.

In Feb. 2015, a Senate resolution sponsored by Hatch passed, requiring the U.S. government and ICANN to protect the organization “from undue influence or capture by governments, multilateral or intergovernmental organizations or commercial or noncommercial stakeholders.”

Some conservative groups say that the U.S. needs to retain oversight over ICANN to protect a free internet.

Cruz heads opposition to the proposal and is set to hold a congressional hearing tomorrow (Sept. 14).