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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today discussed his concerns over the U.S. government giving up governance of the internet by allowing the current Internet Assigned Number Authority model to expire in September and then rushing into a potentially flawed multi-stakeholder model. Rubio emphasized that he supports an eventual transition to a multi-stakeholder internet model, but believes it should only occur on a timetable driven by the goal of protecting internet freedom and doing so without ceding greater control to authoritarian regimes like China and Russia.

Rubio made his comments during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing on “Examining the Multistakeholder Plan for Transitioning the Internet Assigned Number Authority.” Later today, Rubio will send a letter to the Administration expressing these same concerns.

“Before any plan can be implemented, we must ensure the changes in the transition proposal are applied, that they operate as envisioned and that they don’t contain unforeseen problems that could undermine the multi-stakeholder model, or that threaten the openness of security, stability, the resiliency of the internet,” said Rubio.

“So, I plan to communicate this formally to the administration in a letter later today and I welcome any of my colleagues on this committee to join me in making sure that we’re not the ones who get this wrong, that we’re not the ones on the wrong side of history, who, because of international pressure, because of these arbitrary deadlines, we proceed hastily to give up one of the greatest promoters of democracy and free commerce in the history of the world, the free and open internet,” Rubio continued.

“I honestly don’t believe that proceeding cautiously on this is to our detriment and I think fully understandable, given the scope of what we’re talking about here,” Rubio added. “And, I would say also that while we still control the process and the timeline, once we most past a certain point, there is no leverage to pull back.”

A transcript of Rubio’s full remarks is available below. A video is available here, and a broadcast quality video is available for download here.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
Washington, D.C.
May 24, 2016
https://youtu.be/1JMpURi0hQs

Senator Marco Rubio: "What I do dismiss, however, is this notion that if we somehow don’t do it on this accelerated timeframe, then the world is going to rebel and say, ‘We knew you were lying to us the whole time, you never intend to give this up.’ And that somehow this is going to give an excuse, for example, to China or Russia to argue to the world, ‘That’s why we need our own internet regulatory framework, apart from the United States, because this stuff doesn’t work anymore.’ And the reason why is because I think irrespective of what we do, China’s going to move forward."

Rubio: "So my view of my prediction is, I don’t care how fast this moves, or what we do, China is going to try to take over at least as much as they can. It’s a threat to their government control of their society. There’s an article somewhere today, I only read the headline, didn’t get the chance to read the body of the article, but it said that one of the unfortunate things that’s happened in China is it proves that internet control works. It’s one of the first things these regimes try to do and of course China will try to use its growing economy as a leverage point around the world.

"‘If you want to sell to the over billions of Chinese people, then you’re going to have to register domains under our system that we’ve created.’ So I think that’s going to happen anyway.

"I think the point, and what I intend to communicate here in a letter that I hope my colleagues will join me on is that before any plan can be implemented, we must ensure the changes in the transition proposal are applied, that they operate as envisioned and that they don’t contain unforeseen problems that could undermine the multi-stakeholder model, or that threaten the openness of security, stability, the resiliency of the internet.

"So, I plan to communicate this formally to the administration in a letter later today and I welcome any of my colleagues on this committee to join me in making sure that we’re not the ones who get this wrong, that we’re not the ones on the wrong side of history, who, because of international pressure, because of these arbitrary deadlines, we proceed hastily to give up one of the greatest promoters of democracy and free commerce in the history of the world, the free and open internet. 

"I honestly don’t believe that proceeding cautiously on this is to our detriment and I think fully understandable, given the scope of what we’re talking about here. And, I would say also that while we still control the process and the timeline, once we most past a certain point, there is no leverage to pull back.

"If this thing goes off the rails, if in fact it’s used in a nefarious way, what leverage do we have to pull back on it?"

Rubio: "I can’t speak for anybody else, maybe others never want to give it up. I’m telling you from my perspective and my engagement on this issue, it’s not about not giving it up at some point, it is about [if] we do it the right way, because it’s an irreversible decision in many, many ways. And it comes in light of increased authoritarian measures around the world, in places like Russia, in places like China, over the internet.

"And I just read to you this statement put out by NTIA that shows that we are having this debate in the context of an increasingly authoritarian environment when it comes to oversight and the internet, where China has done a successful job of building a great firewall.

"Today, people in China to not have, for example, access to images from Tiananmen Square, it is filtered out. And so there’s real concerns about the environment that we operate in when some of the largest global players are authoritarian regimes who have shown the propensity and the willingness to exercise control over the internet.

"And by the way, in the context of what’s happening geopolitically in the South China Sea is an example where China is a signatory to the Law to Sea Treaty and yet they are taking over illegitimate territorial claims that they’re exercising, building artificial islands, claiming territory that doesn’t belong to them, and basically ignoring the mechanisms by which all of that is supposed to be regulated. If they do that for islands, why would they not do it for the internet, one of the most powerful tools in human history?

"So it’s not that I don’t want it to happen, I just think it has to happen in the right way, in the right timing, or we can’t get it back. We can’t reverse those mistakes."