Legislators urge Commerce Dept, DoJ against transfer of ICANN internet governance

U.S. legislators urged the Department of Justice and the Commerce Department to reconsider the transfer of internet governance.
U.S. legislators urged the Department of Justice and the Commerce Department to reconsider the transfer of internet governance.

In an open letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, four U.S. legislators urged the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Commerce Department to reconsider the upcoming transfer of internet governance to a multistakeholder body.

The California non-profit corporation Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has contracted with the Department of Commerce to manage Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions, which include Domain Name System (DNS) root coordination, IP address responsibilities, and other functions. The transfer of these functions is scheduled to transition to a multistakeholder entity on October 1, 2016.

The letter, signed by Senate Committee on Commerce Science and Transportation Chairman John Thune (R-SD), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-IA), and House Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), called on Lynch and Pritzker to examine “unresolved matters” involving the upcoming transfer oversights of IANA functions.

The Congressmen cited “outstanding issues” facing the transfer and noted that ICANN bylaws do not specify that the organization must remain a California non-profit corporation. The four lawmakers also voiced concerns that ICANN could shift its legal jurisdiction of incorporation to China, Iran, Russia, or other regions.

The transfer of IANA functions could “result in a less transparent and accountable Internet governance regime or provide an opportunity for an enhanced role for authoritarian nation-states in Internet governance,” the letter stated.

Invincea CEO Anup Ghosh noted that the functions of the Internet that ICANN manages do not include oversight of potential threat vectors. He said the transfer of IANA functions "makes it harder for a nation-state to move it in any one direction very fast.”

“The IANA transition is about the technical coordination of the naming, numbering and protocol system,” wrote Kathryn Brown, president and CEO of the Internet Society in an op-ed in the US political newspaper The Hill on Friday. “It is a function governments and other Internet stakeholders have long agreed is best left to the Internet's technical community.”

A year ago, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) raised concerns with a report on Registration Directory Services conducted by a working group at ICANN and called on the working group to “make user privacy a central tenet of any new registration data system.”
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