House GOP Queries U.S. Plan to Give Up Internet Control

Republican lawmakers questioned the Obama administration’s plan to give up control of the system for assigning website addresses.

“What assurances do Internet users have that such a change will not lead to foreign government mischief?” said Greg Walden, chairman of the House telecommunications subcommittee. “I remain concerned,” he said. Walden said the administration of President Barack Obama should await a study by Congress before acting.

Today’s hearing examined the plan announced March 14 by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an arm of the Commerce Department. The agency has asked the non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to guide discussions for a transition from the current arrangement.

The agency won’t accept a plan to replace its role with one led by governments or an inter-governmental organization, Lawrence Strickling, the NTIA administrator, told lawmakers today.

“Despite the symbolic role the U.S. government has played over the years, the fact is that no country controls the Internet,” Strickling said in testimony submitted to lawmakers.

The Internet’s growth “depends on building trust among all users worldwide,” Stricking said. “Taking this action is the best measure to prevent authoritarian regimes from expanding their restrictive policies beyond their own borders.”

Contract Expiring

The move represents the final phase of the U.S. government’s effort to privatize the backbone of the Internet that provides websites with their unique identifiers, which are essential for users to find what they’re seeking online. U.S. control over Internet functions has come under attack from privacy advocates and foreign governments in the wake of revelations about National Security Agency spying.

NTIA’s contract with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority is to expire on Sept. 30, 2015, and the pact can be extended for four years, Strickling said.

The NTIA needs to see “a plan that ensures the uninterrupted, stable functioning of the Internet and preserves its openness,” Strickling said. “Until such time, there will be no change in our current role.”

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