DOTCOM bill would keep Internet Domain Name System in U.S. pending GAO report

Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) led Republican lawmakers in supporting legislation last week that would prevent the Obama administration from removing control of the global Internet Domain Name System (DNS) from U.S. oversight, pending a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

The Domain Openness Through Continues Oversight Matters (DOTCOM) Act was authored by Shimkus and co-sponsored by a dozen other Republican legislators, including Reps. Joe Barton (TX), Leonard Lance (NJ), Bob Latta (OH), Larry Buchson (IN), Kevin Cramer (ND), Blake Farenthold (TX), John Kline (MN), Billy Long (MO), David McKinley (WV), Richard Nugent (FL), Todd Rokita (IN) and Greg Walden (OR).

“The premise of this legislation is simple — trust but verify,” ” Shimkus explained. “Before the administration makes an irreversible decision, the American people deserve reassurance that the global Internet will remain free from censorship and manipulation by authoritarian regimes. Requiring a non-partisan review before the transition moves forward is a commonsense way to guarantee that.”

The U.S. Department of Commerce, via the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) at the Department of Commerce, currently manages the matching of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of any website with the corresponding domain name of that site. This matching process, part of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), is completed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a California-based contractor.

NTIA recently announced plans to wean the oversight task to a global, multi-stakeholder group, allowing foreign governments to become vested in the process of DNS management. The DOTCOM Act legislation would prohibit NTIA from terminating its contract with ICANN until the GAO report to Congress can be reviewed and it is determined that this would be a safe choice.

“While I can understand that the U.S. Government envisioned having a temporary role in the IANA functions, I am not certain that now is the time for this type of transition” Barton added. “I am not convinced that ICANN is yet ready to develop a credible plan, and I believe that Congressional oversight is needed. I would rather have a better understanding of the realities of the multi-stakeholder model before taking the risky move of simply allowing it to move forward.”