The Obama administration is moving forward with plans to relinquish U.S. control over Internet domains, but many conservatives are demanding the president not change what is working fine by ceding control to other countries, which could then limit the content their own citizens can see.
The old contract by which the United States controlled Internet domain aspects since 1987 actually expired at the end of September 2015. Since then, the Obama administration has been trying to build a framework to transition the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, to a “multi-stakeholder” system. As more of those details get ironed out, the end of American control draws near. Extended U.S. control is slated to end later this month.
Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., is among those who believe this is a big mistake.
“Is this move going to strengthen America, or is this move going to weaken it? I think it’s very clear that if we do what President Obama wants to do, it’ll weaken America’s stance again,” said Yoho, who is a strong supporter of the DOTCOM Act.
That bill passed the House of Representatives overwhelmingly last year, but the Senate has yet to take it up. It would give Congress oversight of any transfer of Internet domain control and give lawmakers the power to kill or modify the plan.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is spearheading the effort in the Senate to keep the Internet in U.S. hands.
Yoho told WND and Radio America his approach is simple. The current system isn’t broken, so why radically change it?
“The U.S. has been in control of the domain names of the Internet since its inception. If we relinquish this control, it goes possibly to the U.N. Then you have countries like Russia, China and Iran and any other country that wants to play, and [they get to] determine how to regulate those domain names within their countries,” Yoho explained.
He said giving authoritarian leaders control over what their people can access only means bad results.
“I think you’re going to see a decrease in access to the Internet, a decrease of freedom over the Internet to an extent we have never experienced before,” he said.
Yoho said those nations would not be in position to block what Americans can see online, but they could restrict anything they wanted for their own populations.
“They can block any country’s intellectual property or content from being accessed by somebody in Russia or China or Iran. You’re starting to limit people,” he said.
“If you look at one of the basic underlying tenets of liberty, it’s freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom to access of information. If we start sequestering that and blocking it off, you’re going to have pockets around the world that are going to become more and more isolated,” Yoho said.
He said the past 29 years prove the U.S. is best at guaranteeing people around the world have access to all available information to learn and better their lives.
“One of the things that made the Internet so explosive and such an economic and intellectual force is because of the free-market enterprise in a country like the U.S. controlling access to it,” Yoho said.
Yoho sees two other dangers of relinquishing total control of Internet domains. First is the additional risks to our already vulnerable cyber defenses.
“If they take over the domain names and things like that, who knows what they’ll plan as far as malware or some type of cyber bug that’ll get into everybody’s computer? So this is a misstep by this administration,” Yoho said.
He said the Obama administration is also breaking the law by pushing this plan forward without congressional authorization.
“It’s a violation of federal law for an officer or an employee of the United States government to make or authorize an expenditure or obligation exceeding the amount we’ve appropriated,” Yoho said. “By doing what they want to do, it’s against the law. That doesn’t seem to be a concern for this administration, and we aim to stop it.”