Underscoring Commitment to Free and Open Internet, Subcommittee Continues Robust Oversight of Latest Administration Proposal

April 2, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, chaired by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), today held a hearing on “Ensuring the Security, Stability, Resilience, and Freedom of the Global Internet.” Members sought answers regarding the Obama administration’s proposal instructing the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to explore ways to remove the United States from its oversight role of the Domain Name System and replace it with a different multistakeholder governance model. Members expressed concern about any change that could leave the Internet vulnerable to power grabs from international governments and sought commitments that the administration would not permit any outcome that fails to protect the ideals of Internet freedom and openness.

“I cannot overstate the importance of freedom of the Internet from government control. Nor can I overstate the threat from foreign governments who seek to control, tax, censor, and otherwise impose their own agendas on the Internet,” said Chairman Walden. “We cannot allow institutions such as the United Nations or the International Telecommunication Union to insert themselves into the functioning of the Domain Name System.”

As part of their review, members also discussed H.R. 4342, the Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters (DOTCOM) Act of 2014, legislation authored by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), which would direct the Government Accountability Office to study the proposed changes and present a non-partisan evaluation before NTIA is permitted to modify the current Domain Name System. 

“We must do all we can to keep the Internet free from the control of those who wish to use it for less than noble means, keeping it out of the hands of nations like China, Iran, or Russia who have demonstrated hostility toward the free flowing, unfettered exchange of information,” added Full Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “While I do not oppose a vigorous discussion of whether and how we could transition the Domain Name System of out the Commerce Department’s purview, we are a long way from seeing a proposal that I could support. Something as important as the future of the Internet demands a thoughtful and deliberate process, and I join my colleagues in supporting the DOTCOM Act.”

Members of the full House of Representatives, led by the Energy and Commerce Committee, have twice unanimously affirmed their commitment to the principle of a free and open Internet. In 2012, the House approved a sense of the Congress resolution (H. Con. Res 127) and in 2013 the House approved H.R. 1580, legislation that affirms the policy of the United States regarding Internet governance and preserves Internet freedom. H.R. 1580 is currently pending in the Senate. Walden and Upton announced at today’s hearing that the subcommittee will soon vote on H.R. 4342.

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