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Why Republicans Are Against Obama Privatizing Internet Governance

August 17, 2016, 9:14 PM UTC
President Barack Obama speaks about the Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action and immigration in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC, June 23, 2016. Obama on Thursday condemned the Supreme Court's ruling blocking his bid to change immigration policy as "heartbreaking" and urged Americans not to fear the millions of people who want to make their lives in the United States.
Photograph by Saul Loeb — AFP/Getty Images

The Obama administration raised partisan concerns in Congress Tuesday, after members of his administration announced final plans to effectively privatize Internet governance.

The administration’s National Telecommunications & Information Administration yesterday announced it will transfer internet domain name authority (IANA) from the federal government to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on Oct. 1, a bipartisan effort that’s spanned three Presidents, according to NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling.

“The IANA stewardship transition represents the final step in the U.S. government’s long-standing commitment, supported by three Administrations, to privatize the Internet’s domain name system,” Strickling wrote in a Tuesday blog post.

The NTIA says the move won’t affect internet users in any meaningful way, according to a Wall Street Journal report, but it’s necessary to prevent governance fragmentation between nations as the Internet continues to grow and expand.


For the last 18 years, the United States has been working with the global Internet multi-stakeholder community to establish a stable and secure model of Internet governance that ensures that the private sector, not governments, takes the lead in setting the future direction of the Internet’s domain name system,” Strickling noted.

Republicans in Congress argue the move constitutes a federal government internet “giveaway,” according to The Journal,” and effectively monopolizes web domain pricing.

Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Sean Duffy on Friday sent a letter to the White House rebuking the anticipated move, which was originally reported by the NTIA earlier this year.

The senators’ primary beef was with the Internet domain name registration company Verisign (VRSN), which ICANN exclusively works with to register web domains. The lawmakers complain fully transferring the federal government’s domain naming process over to ICANN gives Verisign exclusive authority to name its own price for the domain name registration process.

“Verisign’s government-approved control of the .com registry allows it to operate as a monopoly,” the senators wrote.

They referenced a .com registry agreement between the NTIA and the IANA that expires in 2018, saying the NTIA, ICANN, and Verisign are working to amend the agreement and extend it through 2024, which the senators argue would give Verisign too much pricing power.

“It appears that the Department of Justice may be prevented from having meaningful input into the prices that Verisign charges for registering a domain name within the .com domain for an extended period,” the senators wrote.