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Rubio, Commerce Republicans Seek Answers On Future Of Internet Governance

May 22, 2014 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – As members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), along with 7 Republican colleagues, today requested that the Committee hold a hearing to review the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) announcement to transition oversight of certain Internet domain name functions to the global multistakeholder community.

Rubio and Cruz were joined by Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI), Dean Heller (R-NV), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Dan Coats (R-IN), Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Tim Scott (R-SC).

In a letter to Chairmen John Rockefeller (D-WV) and Mark Pryor (D-AR), and Ranking Members John Thune (R-SD) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), the senators expressed concern over the NTIA’s proposed transition, pointing to the success of the existing bottom-up, multistakeholder approach to Internet governance.

“Should oversight of these vital Internet functions transition to foreign governments or international organizations that do not share our commitment to Internet freedom, individual empowerment and technological advances, both key components to achieving the American Dream in the 21st century, will become seriously compromised,” said Rubio. “That is not a risk we can afford to take. It is Congress’ job to lead the cause for Internet freedom, and the Senate’s responsibility to do so begins with the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. There are many unresolved questions regarding NTIA’s announcement, and hopefully this hearing can provide some answers.” 

“The Internet has become an extraordinary incubator for jobs, growth, and freedom under the stewardship of the United States because we have made certain that the Internet remains free,” said Cruz. “Changing the current arrangement with ICANN risks endangering what has made it such a powerful tool for innovation and communications. Any change that would grant foreign governments the ability to undermine foundational freedoms, such as free speech, must be rejected outright. The Senate must carefully vet any proposal that could take any steps towards doing so.”

A PDF of the letter is available here. The full text of the letter is below.

May 21, 2014

Dear Chairmen Rockefeller, Pryor and Ranking Members Thune and Wicker:

We are writing to respectfully request that the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (“the Committee”) hold a hearing to review the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) announcement to transition oversight of certain Internet domain name functions to the global multistakeholder community. This transition, if it occurs, could have profound consequences on the future of Internet governance and freedom, and therefore deserves a close examination by the Committee.

Last Congress many of us were leaders on S. Con. Res. 50 (SCR 50), which reinforced the U.S. government’s opposition to ceding control of Internet governance to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) or to any other governmental body. By unanimously passing SCR 50, Congress sent a strong message of support for the existing bottom-up, multistakeholder approach to Internet governance. The current model has enabled individual empowerment and technological advancement around the world, and has ensured the Internet remains free from the control of governments and intergovernmental organizations.

Congress must once again lead the cause for Internet freedom. All of the signatories of this letter also sent several questions to NTIA in March. While we appreciate NTIA’s response, there are a number of unresolved questions concerning NTIA’s decision, as well as uncertainty about how this transition will unfold. NTIA’s announcement must be carefully considered and understood, which is why the Committee must conduct rigorous oversight of this decision and process.

Since the announcement by NTIA, the United States has sent delegations to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) 49 conference in Singapore and to the NETmundial meeting on the future of Internet governance in Brazil. NTIA’s decision and ICANN’s future role were discussed at both conferences, and we understand that countries like China and Russia pushed back against the multi-stakeholder model and toward greater control over the Internet.

It is important that the Committee, Congress, and the American people hear from NTIA, members of the U.S. delegation, and other Internet stakeholders about how these conferences went and what the global community is proposing. Chairman Rockefeller, when the Committee held a hearing in December 2011 on ICANN’s expansion of top level domains, you stated:

As the Senate Committee tasked with examining issues related to the Internet, it is critical that we understand what this will mean for the millions of Americans who use the Internet on a daily basis and the thousands of businesses and organizations that now depend upon the Internet to reach their customers and members.

That statement certainly applies today to NTIA’s proposed transition. As this process unfolds and NTIA engages the global Internet community, it is imperative the Committee exercise its jurisdiction and conduct careful oversight on behalf of the American people to ensure Internet freedom is protected. The House has already held two hearings, and the global Internet community continues to convene. We must do the same. This announcement and the outcome of this proposed transition are too important for the Committee to remain silent. We appreciate your consideration of this request and look forward to working with all of you on this important issue.

Sincerely,

Marco Rubio 

Ted Cruz

Ron Johnson

Dean Heller

Roy Blunt

Kelly Ayotte

Dan Coats

Deb Fischer

Tim Scott